Case Study: Critical Analysis of Journalistic Practices in Thailand

Since the military coup in Thailand on 22 May 2014, which replaced the government with the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta, press freedom has suffered significantly (Freedom House, 2015). According to the most recent reports, Thailand’s press freedom has dropped to a ranking of 134 out of 180 countries (The Reporters Without Boarders, 2015). The new regime has seen the suspension of the 2007 constitution in Thailand, and General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the coup leader, appointed as prime minister (Freedom House, 2015). New military orders and aggressive enforcement of laws by the NCPO is creating a climate where journalists cannot perform, due to the threat of intimidation or detention. This case study of the worsening situation for journalists in Thailand will examine some of the key structural issues journalists face, those being political and legal issues. The future outlook for journalism in this country will then be discussed.

Structural issues affecting journalists in Thailand:


The military junta has changed the political climate in Thailand, with Prayuth having full control to silence anyone who would oppose the regime.

The military ordered the shut down and control of several media offices. Although some broadcasters were put back on the air, their content continues to be highly controlled and limited to short-term licenses (Freedom House, 2015). In a statement televised on a propaganda program, the NCPO leader said, “some programs or stations have to be stopped” because they “distort the facts” (Royal Thai Government, 2014). This statement is about stopping the media from exposing any other version of the truth than the one they are authorised to. The information reaching the public is therefore largely sterilised to ensure it abides by the regime, whether that be through political propaganda or self-censorship.

Many journalists feeling the weight of political pressures are self-censoring content by delaying publication or avoiding reporting on issues critical of the regime or the monarchy. The pressure not to ‘stray from the script’ increased further when General Prayuth told reporters in 2015 that they will “probably just execute” any journalist who does not follow the official line of the regime (We’ll probably kill journalists, 2015).

The junta also use their political power to silence dissent among journalists by sending them to “attitude adjustment” sessions (Lee, 2015). Thai journalist, Pravit Rojanaphruk, was detained in one of these ‘sessions’ for critically reporting on the General (Lee, 2015). These political pressures greatly limit freedom of expression and leave the agenda setting in the hands of the ruling elite.


Existing defamation and lèse-majesté laws have been strongly enforced, making it very difficult for journalists to report freely and accurately on events in Thailand. Authorities are also able to detain anyone without charge or evidence for up to seven days (Freedom House, 2015).

One of the top priorities for the NCPO is to prosecute critics of the monarchy, charging them with lèse-majesté, a serious and criminal offense in Thailand (Human Rights Watch, 2015). In 2014, the editor of Thai E-News was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for an article he published in 2009 that ‘defamed’ King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Thai news website editor, 2014). Because of the legal consequences, many Thai journalists do not report on matters concerning the monarchy.

Defamation cases, prohibiting any criticism of the coup, have also increased. This puts enormous pressure on journalists, with one journalist from the Bangkok Post saying he “worked and lived in crippling fear” (Heifetz, 2015). Two journalists from the online newspaper Phuketwan, Alan Morrison and Chutima Sidasathian, were charged with defamation by the Royal Thai Navy for publishing content that implicated the navy in human trafficking (MLDI, 2016). These kinds of cases are increasing in Thailand, and in the example of Phuketwan, eventually led to the closure of the publication, which speaks to the influential pressure the ‘powers-at-be’ have over the production of good journalism.

Future outlook for journalists and journalism practice in Thailand

 The future outlook for journalism in Thailand is not positive while the military continue to run the country and the flow of information. The space for freedom of expression has decreased exorbitantly since 2014 and therefore the ability of journalists to report freely has also decreased.

The commercialisation of media is a major factor, with many editors scared to publish critical stories that could lead to a loss of advertising and sponsors, let-a-lone the legal consequences enforced by the junta (What does the future, 2014). For example, the closure of Phuketwan was largely due to their advertisers pulling out because the website continued to publish stories on corruption and other critical issues (MLDI, 2016). If journalists are forced to censor their reporting, the quality of journalism will suffer and there will no longer be balanced reporting in Thailand from the major broadcasters.

A possible solution to this may see an increase in journalists publishing direct to social media. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) World Service started using Facebook to provide news to the Thai population (Reid, 2014). This carries risks, however, as the regime continues to crack down on online censorship with the highly scrutinised Cyber Security Bill approved in January 2015 (Committee to Protect Journalists, 2015). The threat of prosecution may mean some journalists are unwilling to take the risk of sharing critical stories, even on social media.

In conclusion, the situation for journalists and the journalism industry in Thailand has clearly worsened since the NCPO replaced the government in 2014. General Prayuth’s use of political and legal pressures on journalists has had severe effects on the freedom of the press, namely the enforcement of draconian lèse-majesté laws and the threat of defamation cases. While the military remains in power, an environment that is not conducive to good investigative journalism will continue to exist in Thailand.

Gender Project

In an attempt to build on the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000, 193 members of the United Nations (UN) adopted a new global agenda for sustainability and the realisation of human rights and equality for all (United Nations 2015a). On 25 September 2015, seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets were announced, with the aim of achieving them by 2030 (United Nations 2015b). An important aspect of these goals is the inclusion of the essential need for the world to achieve gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls. However, in this essay it will be argued that ‘Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’ will not see gender equality and empowerment achieved for all women, particularly focusing on the plight of refugee women fleeing Syria as a clear example. Women face threats of violence and insecurity not only during the initial stages of conflict, but for lengthy periods after they have escaped a warzone (SDSN 2013). My argument is that although there has been a global focus on the broad scale humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees, not enough attention has been paid to the vulnerability of women fleeing conflict in regards to their health and well-being, and these women can therefore not achieve the empowerment and equality they are entitled to. This essay will start with a brief overview of the Syrian crisis; followed by an analysis of threats to women’s well being, referencing mental health challenges in particular; there will then be an assessment of health care problems that make women vulnerable; and finally Lebanon will be used as a case study to expand on the situation of Syrian refugee women and illustrate how their needs should be mentioned in Goal 3 of the SDGs.

Since protests erupted in Syria against the Bashar al-Assad government in 2011, within the context of the Arab Spring uprising in surrounding areas, the country has been in civil war (Amnesty International 2016c). An array of state and non-state armed groups have been fighting each other, targeting civilians, and committing mass war crimes on all sides of the conflict. This has led to one of the largest humanitarian and refugee crises in recent history, with 4, 840, 659 registered (with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights [UNHCR]) refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries and even making the journey by sea to seek international protection in Europe (UNHCR 2016a). This huge intake of refugees has weakened new and existing resources in host countries, and massive shortages in funding (currently a 78 per cent gap in funds required and funds available) means that resources provided by the UN and other government and non-government agencies are stretched thin (UNHCR 2016a). Women make up 49.8 per cent of the Syrian refugee population and are particularly vulnerable to violence, exploitation and damage to mental and physical health (UNHCR 2016a). The following will demonstrate how these women need to be specifically represented in the SDGs so they can escape from the disempowering nature of post-conflict situations.

Something that causes a strain on the well-being and mental health of women refugees is the change in social dynamic from a traditionally patriarchal society to one where the woman is thrust into the ‘breadwinner’ role. A Syrian refugee displaced to Lebanon, after her husband went missing in Damascus, described her experience as the new head of household as feeling like she is “mother, father, sister, brother, everything” to her children now (Gatten 2014). In attempting to adapt to this new environment where they are resource providers and caregivers, women refugees become further marginalised and isolated (Goleen 2014). The change in dynamic also challenges the natural division of labour between the public realm (traditionally male-dominated) and the private realm (traditionally the domain of women) (Charlesworth, Chinkin and Wright 1991: 626). While the experiences of taking on extra responsibilities, after such devastation and perhaps losing their spouse, may empower women at their home or dwelling, Shirley Hune argues that this empowerment does not necessarily translate into the workplace (Harcourt 2010: 151, Hune 1991: 806). With women in refugee circumstances often being isolated and living in poor conditions due to their work as low-wage labourers (if they are lucky enough to get out of the camps and find employment), they become particularly at risk from exploitation by their landlords or employers, and even face the threat of violence and sexual exploitation. In her book, Jacqui True says that power relations based on gender, nationality, class and ethnicity often cause violence to be a part of the employment relationship (True 2012: 57). She also notes they lack basic legal protections and opportunities for redress, as exemplified by the situation for women displaced to Lebanon who fear reporting gender-based violence and other abuses to the authorities because it may have negative consequences for their residency permits (True 2012: 57, Amnesty International 2016a). Further to the hindrances of role changes and workplace exploitation, women’s freedom of movement in post-conflict situations is hindered due to fear of being subjected to rape, abduction or other sexual violence (UNHCR 2015: 18). The psychological and social impacts of gender-based violence include the woman being socially ostracised, becoming depressed or anxious, and feeling a sense of injustice, self-criticism or guilt (UNHCR 2015: 18-19). Many female refugees escaping to Europe reported feeling “threatened and unsafe” on their journey, with many saying they “stopped eating and drinking while they were in the transit camps to avoid having to go the mixed-sex toilets” (Sayed 2016). This experience of further fear and insecurity after the traumatic experience of fleeing a war-torn country exacerbates the stress put on refugee women and needs urgent attention taken by the governments and aid agencies on the ground, and the international community, through a plan ideally set out in Goal 3 of the SDGs – which should be to protect vulnerable women from threats to their mental well-being.

The health care system in post-conflict situations does not appropriately represent the needs of women refugees. A report by the UNHCR found that the challenge of providing health care, particularly to refugees residing outside of camps in urban areas, is growing. It also found that health services in the affected countries are greatly strained by the increasing numbers of people needing medical attention (UN News Centre 2013). The health services in Jordan have seriously worsened since the government introduced a new policy in 2014, which means Syrian refugees have to pay unaffordable user fees to access health care. In other words, Syrians who hold a Ministry of Interior (MOL) service card, as is required to access public health services, are now treated the same as foreigners trying to access these services (Amnesty International 2016b: 5-6). This is particularly concerning for the medically vulnerable population of Syrian refugee women, who face not only general injuries but many also need access to regular antenatal care (Amnesty International 2016b: 18). The World Health Organisation recommends at least four antenatal appointments during pregnancy, but one woman from Damascus waited seven months until her first check-up at the MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Irbid due to high transport costs and the expensive fees of going to a Ministry of Health hospital near her (Amnesty International 2016b: 6). Furthermore, in an analysis of reproductive health for Syrian Refugees in the Zaatri and Irbid camps, it was found that there is need for improvement in the implementation of the Minimal Initial Service Package (MISP) (Women’s Refugee Commission 2016). The reproductive health services coordinated under MISP should be used at the beginning of an emergency to “prevent excess morbidity and mortality, particularly among women and girls” (Krause et al. 2015). Some of the key problems identified in the report included reproductive health coordination being limited between some key informants, protocols for treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were not complete along with care for survivors of sexual violence, and protection or management of sexual violence was limited (Women’s Refugee Commission 2016). Women also complained they had not been included properly in the humanitarian relief effort. This failure to properly include them and fully implement MISP runs across the board of host countries due to hostile conditions and limited resources. It should be a priority to include a target of improving the capabilities of international and local organisations to benefit the health of vulnerable women, in order to truly achieve Goal 3 of the SDGs.

All of the problems outlined so far, and more, are faced by women who have fled to Lebanon after escaping the conflict in Syria. From 2015-2016 alone there was a five per cent increase in people of concern, with 1, 048, 275 of them being Syrian refugees (UNHCR 2016a, UNHCR 2016b). The government of Lebanon was already facing a significant strain on resources before the UN was forced to reduce its support to refugees due to the international community’s failure to adequately fund the agency (Amnesty International 2016a: 4). Women are made more vulnerable due to new residency permit criteria introduced in 2015 which exposes them to risks such as: not being able to seek redress from authorities because they may be arrested, limitations on their freedom of movement for education, health or work due to fears of crossing checkpoints, and arbitrary arrests that may lead to deportation (Amnesty International 2016a: 5). This combination of circumstances, particularly revolving around residence permits, means that many women and girls are unable or unwilling to report gender-based violence and other abuses because they fear the repercussions. Women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, Liesl Gerntholtz, said, “women who have fled death and destruction in Syria should find a safe haven, not sexual abuse, in Lebanon” (Human Rights Watch 2013). The SDGs should include specific instructions for states and organisations to enable women to be empowered in their host country, and not face such restrictive burdens that reduce their quality of life and advancement opportunities.

In conclusion, this essay has made a clear argument that Goal 3 of the SDGs missed a crucial population of women who need to have attention paid to their health and well-being so that women in conflict will be secured from such vulnerabilities by 2030. This was demonstrated by outlining the Syrian refugee crisis, analysing women’s mental health as refugees, discussing health care problems that increase the vulnerability of women, and using the case of Lebanon as an example of how the international community has failed to encourage gender equality in the refugee response. The 193 members who signed the declaration need to stay true to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s pledge “to leave no one behind” (United Nations 2015b). To truly achieve gender equality through the empowerment of women everywhere, states and non-state actors should incorporate women’s needs more into the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Until this occurs, millions of women and girls will continue to suffer exploitation and disadvantage, and many may never evolve from their post-conflict situation.

New Wars and Globalisation

I discuss how the ‘new wars’ of the present, including the ‘war on terrorism’, grow out of contradictory forces of globalisation.

Through the forces of modernisation and globalisation, global dislocation has consequently emerged and spurred the development, or arguably resurgence, of a new type of warfare. As globalisation allows for more inclusive transnational networks to exist, it has also had the effect of excluding a large number of people – especially in the Arab world (Kaldor 2006: 74). With the wave of new wars has come a wave of international terrorism, which has become a principal security challenge of states since the announcement of the ‘war on terror’. These terrorists are bringing threats against Western society in reaction and opposition to globalisation that have been relatively unpredictable. The argument of this essay is that the ‘new wars’ of the present, particularly in relation to terrorist activities and the ‘war on terrorism’, have grown out of contradictory forces of globalisation. This is evident due to the reassertion of new identities and identity politics as a consequence of globalisation, the emergence of a ‘broader enabling environment’ that has encouraged terrorist activity, the effects of economic globalisation, and the development of new technologies that have improved the transnational terrorist network and efficiency of terrorist organisations.

As a consequence of globalisation, there has been a reassertion of new identities and identity politics. One of the main implications of globalisation, in the context of new wars, has been the breaking down of territorial sovereignty to a point where it is no longer viable (Kaldor 2006: 91). This has left the door open for various identities to claim state power in reaction to the declining legitimacy of the established political system. This system is one where politics is developed from above and serves to inculcate popular prejudices (Kaldor 2006: 82). From the disintegration of the structure of the modern state, new identity politics arise (Kaldor 2006: 81). The gap is widening between those who can participate in transnational networks and those who are left out of the processes of globalisation, despite the fact that their existence continues to be shaped by those same global processes (Kaldor 2006: 72-73). This is where a ‘crisis of identity’ has emerged among the minority groups who are excluded from the benefits of globalisation. So in an attempt to assert their own identity – whether it is around ethnicity, race or religion – movements have sought to break free from the system (UNDP 2009: 190; Kaldor 2006: 79). The need to assert identity against the forces of homogeneity or cultural purity has further spurred the rise of extremist Islamic-fundamentalist terror groups such as al-Qa’ida and its previous splinter group Islamic State (IS currently, or previously known as ISIS). Despite the absence of a clear and direct policy on the matter, the United States (US) has been targeted by such groups as they perceive the US to be the main driver of the processes of globalisation (Cronin 2002-03: 46;52). The modern international system – which has been largely moulded by US behaviour – is believed to have ‘corrupted’ indigenous languages, economics, customs and religion; in other words, their ‘identity’ (Cronin 2002-03: 51). The upsurge in violence from religious nationalists – including the attacks on the World Trade Centre towers and Washington on 11 September 2001 that prompted former US President George Bush to announce the ‘war on terror’ – were driven by a desire to reject a future of Western secular nationalism and the globalisation process, by replacing it with their own ideological religious movement (O’Connell 2002: 19; Juergensmeyer 1996: 5; 9). Militant revolutionaries such as these even identify their own Muslim leaders, in rejection of the Western-led secular system (Juergensmeyer 1996: 6; 10). On 29 July 2014, the leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, became the self-declared authority over an estimated 1.5 million Muslims around the world, as IS announced the creation of a caliphate (an Islamic State) that exists outside state borders (CNN Library 2014). This action, along with aggressive violence and use of terrorism tactics by radicals and extremists associated with the group, has separated the Muslim community – on an international scale – from the rest of civilisation, whether or not all Muslims agree with the military action taken in the name of Jihad for the preservation of Islam. Although not every Muslim person would conform to IS’s demands, the ability of the organisation to spread terror on such a large scale against the forces of globalisation speaks to the transcendental dimension of the religion and fluidity of the Islamic ideal (Chalk 1999: 159). The declaration of their own leader and the caliphate is a clear rejection of Western modernisation and affirmation of their religious identity.

In an analysis of the relationship between globalisation and the spread of terrorism, Audrey Cronin identifies a ‘broader enabling environment’ as a key outcome of globalisation that has encouraged the existence of ‘new wars’, particularly the resurgent trend of terrorism (2002-03: 38). Cronin argues that although the largest international terrorist threat comes from the Muslim world through religious motivations, it is more accurate to acknowledge the broader anti-globalisation idea arising from tensions between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ (Cronin 2002-03: 35). The ‘have nots’ largely exist in the Arab world, which has been a place where terrorist groups such as al-Qa’ida have received sanctuary and support (Cronin 2002-03: 35; 38). The enabling environment in these regions consists of a lack of social services; people are ruled under bad governance; and the area is rid with poverty (Cronin 2002-03: 38). A majority of the people living in the Arab world are therefore excluded from the economic, political and human security benefits of globalisation, so it is easy for terrorist organisations to exploit their frustrations. If their governments do not offer feasible alternatives for progress, people who are not happy with the system find what they need in the radical religious philosophies. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) releases reports on human development in Arab regions. In one of the most recent reports, it was found that for there to be human development in the Arab countries, and therefore more equal incorporation into the workings of globalisation, it is essential that human security be improved (UNDP 2009: 207). The report confirmed that public confidence in the institutions of civil society is not strong, and that rather than placing their trust in these institutions, they retreat to primordial loyalties and religion – found in the organisations that are spreading terror against Western civilisation (UNDP 2009: 207). With a large percentage of Arab countries being under-developed, terrorist organisations therefore have a larger scope of influence available to them – making their activities transnational. For instance, even with the death of Osama Bin Laden, al-Qa’ida continues to exist and has inspired other, similarly motivated, groups to continue the violent assault of anti-modernisation and anti-globalisation forces against US targets (and their allies). Furthermore, the internal communities of societies in many Arab countries are becoming fragmented and polarised, leading to internal conflict (Baregu 2006: 108). Kaldor says that “areas of conflict become ‘black holes’ – havens for fanatics and criminals” (2006: 94). However, it is the forces of the outside world that are being blamed as the source of the problem – and so international terrorism results (Baregu 2006: 108). As long as the Arab world continues to ‘lag’ behind the ‘rest’, and faces a great sense of insecurity, the broader enabling environment for conflict will increase. It should therefore be in the immediate interests of the US and its allies to develop a long-term strategy of assisting in the sustainable development of third world countries.

The ‘new wars’ and ‘new terrorism’ also grow out of the contradictory forces of economic globalisation. New forms of legal and illegal ways of making an income have emerged, known as the ‘parallel economy’, in the excluded parts of society (Kaldor 2006: 82). As a product of neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, processes of macro-economic stabilisation, privatisation and deregulation occurred, which sped up the process of globalisation (Kaldor 2006: 87). As a result, the level of unemployment increased, the gap in incomes widened, rapid urbanisation and increased migration occurred, and there was a resource depletion, which consequently led to a global competition for resources (Kaldor 2006: 87). The reliance on oil for countries – such as: Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Libya and to some extent Algeria – has made their economies volatile and left them open to inflation and deflation on the global market (Alissa 2007: 2). With the world dependent on oil for energy, states have little control over oil security (Yetiv 2011: 208). As these states are weakened, they also no longer have the ability to protect the economically disadvantaged groups from the global economy (Zimmermann 2011: 155). The competition over this resource of oil has widened the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in the Middle East and generated resentment that contributed to the al-Qa’ida terrorist cause. The terrorist group IS has also joined the Middle East oil competition by taking control of a major oil field in Syria on 3 July 2014 (Abdelaziz 2014). The al-Omar oil field is the largest in that country, with the capacity to produce 75,000 barrels of oil per day (Abdelaziz 2014). This is a huge gain for the terrorist group as it expands its control and influence over valuable resources. Additionally, international commerce generated by globalisation has not only benefited the ‘good’ actors who participate in global processes, but also international terrorists who have, in many ways, become “opportunistic entrepreneurs whose ‘product’ is violence against innocent targets for a political end” (Cronin 2002-03: 51). In his farewell speech on his last day in the White House, former US President Bill Clinton said:

The global economy is giving more of our own people and billions around the world the chance to work and live and raise their families with dignity. But the forces of integration that have created these good opportunities also make us more subject to global forces of destruction, to terrorism, organised crime and narcotrafficking, the spread of deadly weapons and disease, [and] the degradation of the global environment. (Clinton 2001)

Also, informal connections in economies are enabling the fluid movement of financial resources for terrorists (Cronin 2002-03: 49). For the most part, the power in many Arab countries rests with a small number of people who benefit from war economies and alliance with terrorist organisations, and who have allowed the ease of money transfers through legal and illegal enterprises that replenish the terrorist cause (Kaldor 2006: 88; Zimmermann 2011: 155). This globalisation of the economy has clearly put pressure on certain economies that have in turn become more susceptive to terrorist activities.

The emergence of new technologies in the era of globalisation have attributed to the ‘efficiency’ of terrorist organisations – allowing them to operate on transnational networks and have global outreach. Communication technology has developed to such a level that geographical constraints no longer bind groups of people, but instead they the have the ability to use various means of technology to network in a communication process described by Peter Chalk as ‘global digital integration’ (1999: 157). This technological networking has meant that the capacity to mobilise a group of people by the means of a political or ideological movement has increased (Kaldor 2006: 90). Also, the emergence of new ‘imagined communities’ through electronic communication has made rapid communication of a message more possible. Kaldor describes how digital media has developed a higher authority over newspapers in many regions of the world (2006: 91). This is arguably because it can target the largely illiterate part of a population. For example, the radio is considered ‘magic’ in many African regions (Kaldor 2006: 91). The ability of radio to mobilise populations is well known, with incidents such as the radio channel set up in Rwanda in 1993 called Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC). It was largely designed by Hutu extremists to encourage hate and violence towards the Tutsis, and also existed as the main mobilising force for the Rwandan genocide in 1994 (Rwandan Stories 2011). In terms of recent terrorist organisations, al-Qa’ida has been able to disperse its terrorist acts over several geographical areas including the Middle East, the Balkans, Central and South Asia, and the Transcaucasus (Cronin 2002-03: 44). Geography is also of no hindrance to IS, as this terrorist group has been able to recruit and radicalise people from all over the world. However, it is through the Internet in particular that globalisation has advanced communication and facilitated terror (Zimmermann 2011: 155). In the last few months, the main story at the top of most news bulletins has been regarding videos posted online by IS that are designed to spread terror and threaten the West. At the time of writing, there have been four recorded executions of Western captives that were uploaded to the online social media platform Youtube, and also on a website associated with the terror group (CNN Library 2014). In the most recent execution video, the life of another US aid worker was threatened. As well as previously beheading two US journalists, the videos appear to show that these terrorists have also executed a British aid worker and another British citizen, as a warning to British Prime Minister David Cameron to end his country’s “evil alliance with America” (Botelho 2014). Although the terrorist organisation wishes to exist outside of the Western-led system, they are using the forces of globalisation to the benefit of their agenda. By making these terrorist acts available for worldview on the Internet and then to be reported on by Western media, IS manipulates mass communication to spread terror and possibly indoctrinate and radicalise potential recruits to their cause (Zimmermann 2011: 155). Al-Qa’ida is also known to have used mass communication to spread Jihadist propaganda through media entities such as: the Global Islamic Media Front, as-Sahab Institute for Media Production and al-Fajr Media Centre (Baines and O’Shaughnessy 2014: 166). That terrorist organisation’s propaganda messages were made stronger with the manipulation of George Bush’s announcement of the military operation against Bin Laden and the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, where he called it a ‘crusade’ (Baines and O’Shaughnessy 2014: 167). This was the best outcome for al-Qa’ida and their anti-Americanism propaganda, because they could interpret that the Bush administration had effectively positioned itself as an aggressor to Muslims all over the world (Baines and O’Shaughnessy 2014: 167). Furthermore, the efficiency of orchestrating terrorist attacks has become much easier with the revolution in communication technologies, as evidenced by the synchronised attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 by al-Qa’ida (Cronin 2002-03: 47). Even more alarming is that ‘how to’ manuals for terrorism are easily accessible to anyone, further broadening the scope for terrorist influence (Chalk 1999: 157). Not to mention the manuals for bomb-making and low level biological or chemical weapon operations that are commercially published (Hoffman 1998: 203). New technologies that have emerged as a consequence of globalisation are therefore not only providing a platform for terrorist organisations to communicate their message, but they are also providing the means for any one of their followers to cause serious harm to a large population.

To conclude, the contradictory forces of globalisation are enabling the existence of ‘new wars’ and terrorism. This was proved by analysing the reassertion of new identities and identity politics; explaining how a ‘broader enabling environment’, particularly in the Arab world, is contributing to the existence of terrorist organisations; showing how the effects of economic globalisation are increasing the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ and allowing the exploitation of resources for terrorist gains; and finally, analysing how the emergence of new technologies increases the efficiency of terrorist organisations and improves the terrorists’ transnational networks. Although the forces of globalisation are being manipulated by terrorist organisations to better their cause, the international community could also use the very same tools of globalisation against terrorists in the future.

Consequences for Japan’s Constitutional Change

I explain and analyse Japan’s recent changes to the constitution and discuss the consequences and impact on regional international relations.

Since 1945 and the development of Japan’s post-war constitution, the country has been prevented from becoming an aggressive military power. Under Article 9 – the so-called ‘Peace Clause’ of the Constitution – it was stated that armed forces would not be maintained and war would be renounced (Hughes 2006: 727). Since then, Article 9 has been open to reinterpretation by various Japanese governments who sought to allow the maintenance of the Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) for individual national self-defence (Hughes 2006: 728). Japan now has one of the highest technologically capable defence forces, and one of the world’s largest military budgets (Bisley 2008: 79). However, with a changing security environment and regional power balance, and Japan seeking to become a great power in its own right through a process of ‘normalisation’, there has been renewed focus on reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution in relation to the mobilisation of JSDF troops and their role in international security, and the controversial revision of the constraints of collective self-defence. These reinterpretations are not an aggressive attempt to assert power over the region, as proposed by some academics and sceptical foreign governments, but rather aimed to contribute to deterrence stability and prevent the spill over of potential armed conflicts. This will be shown by first explaining and analysing the changes to the constitution, then discussing how Japan’s alliance and cooperation with the United States (US) will be affected by the reinterpretation, followed by the increased opportunity to operate militarily in international affairs through the United Nations (UN), and finally the repercussions for Japan’s regional relations in the region.

As a historic change to its post-World War II security policy, the Japanese Cabinet, under leadership from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), expanded the scope for interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution on 1st July of this year. As a conservative government, they aspire to make Japan a more ‘normal’ country through a new kind of independent military role and doing away with out-dated ideas of pacifism (Yahuda 2011: 316; Hughes 2011: 18). Although Japan has exceeded economically, up until this point it has been an exception of the dominant international norm where a state’s military has the ability to go to war. Before the reinterpretation, Article 9 did not allow “war as a sovereign right of the nation” or the “the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes” (Stearns 2013: 727). This means that Japan has also been unable to aid its allies with full military capabilities, such as in ‘coalitions of the willing’. This is despite the fact that sovereign states like Japan have the right of collective self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter (Stearns 2013: 728). Realists such as Christopher Hughes say that Abe has brought the framework of collective security to the table to respond to emerging security challenges in the region, such as the nuclear threat from North Korea and China’s spread of dominance throughout the region (Izumikawa 2010: 124). The right to exercise collective self-defence is a key factor in his vision for Japan – a Japan that will escape from the constraints of US settlement and dominance, and become more of an ‘equal’ partner in the alliance (Stearns 2013: 140). The reinterpretation, and particularly the right to exercise collective self-defence being recognised, has sparked controversy in Japan and some of the international community. It represents a clear shift away from policy grounded in the Yoshida Doctrine, to one that aims to have a more assertive international military stance (Stearns 2013: 130). At a press conference this year, Prime Minister Abe responded to a question about the consequences of Japan having the ability to participate in the wars of other countries, saying:

I bear responsibility for safeguarding the lives of the people as well as their peaceful daily existence. We must set in place a domestic legal structure for defending the Japanese people that is seamless at all times… By properly taking such countermeasures, deterrence will increase and the likelihood of us becoming involved in a war will decrease. (CPRO 2014)

Following this declaration, there were protests by the people of Japan who still view the use of force in any capacity as unjust. At the end of June a man self-immolated at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station as an apparent protest against Prime Minister Abe’s ambitions to end the ban on exercising collective self-defence (Al Jazeera 2014: 1). The goal of the government is not to engage in high-intensity conflicts, however, but rather to secure its own territory using the military as a deterrence strategy. The extent to which collective self-defence could even be implemented is limited in comparison to other sovereign states, because certain conditions must be met. For instance, there would have to be a clear danger to Japan and the peaceful existence of its people. Furthermore, the ability to decide on a reinterpretation of the use of force in the constitution was made possible by using the Cabinet Legislation Bureau (CLB) as a tool of the Abe regime. The bureaucratic officials of the CLB have played a central part in shaping Japanese defence policy and have held the main power – over the Cabinet – at interpreting Article 9 in the post-war period (Hagstrom 2010: 518). Deciding to use this in his favour, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe replaced the director-general in August 2013 with Ichiro Komatsu, who served as a former diplomat, and was more open to allowing the Cabinet to interpret the constitution. The constant reinterpretation of the constitution by different governments, however, has made some figures in the DPJ wary of ‘hollowing-out’ of the constitution’s principles (Hagstrom 2010: 515; Stearn 2013: 138). Although the state is trying to become more ‘normal’ through this process, clearly the constant reinterpretation of the constitution – where debate is frequently closed off and re-opened – is not a ‘normal’ practice following ‘normal’ democratic conventions (Stearn 2013: 150).

In the post-war period, Japan has been the linchpin of American foreign policy interests and security strategy in the region. A good relationship between the two countries will be essential in the US ‘re-balance’ to the region, because despite its predominant military power capacity, its ability to be strategically effective relies on partner cooperation (Bisley 2008: 89). The recent change to the interpretation of Article 9 will allow for more active relations from Japan as would be expected from a ‘normal’ ally (Bisley 2008: 80). The operations of the JSDF will become increasingly independent and able to act alongside the US. Furthermore, the US military presence in Japan is being reduced to allow for the JSDF and the US military to act jointly in operations (Bisley 2008: 78). In a move to strengthen their alliance, the US and Japanese governments announced the Bilateral Okinawa Consolidation Plan on 5 April 2013. This plan is designed to reduce the US footprint in Okinawa by relocating the Marine Corps forces and returning specific lands to Japan (DOD 2013). Other examples of cooperation include the joint Security Consultative Committee (SCC), which holds meetings that have been central to the effectiveness of the alliance in the ever-changing security environment (Bisley 2008: 76). Since the revision of the Guidelines for US-Japan Defence Cooperation in 2013, Japan has committed to two theatre missile defence (TMD) systems with the US to increase protection for the US and defend Japan from the threat of North Korean missile strikes (Bisley 2008: 81). The Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system opens up the potential for Japan entering into coalitions outside its own territory. The recent acknowledgement of the right to exercise collective self-defence means that Japan will become tightly drawn into the missile command and control mechanisms of the US. Some have perceived this move as being more in the interests of Washington than Japan (Sahashi 2014). However, with Japan being one of North Korea’s neighbouring powers it would be highly susceptible to instability on the Korean peninsula (Hughes 1996: 80). On visiting Japan in July 1995, then US assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs, Joseph Nye, said: “If I were located where Japan is, with a neighbour like North Korea that is developing ballistic missiles… I would certainly take TMD seriously” (Hughes 1996: 80). The US-Japan alliance, although intended to promote mutual security, has the potential to bring new security dilemmas to the table – such as the risks of entrapment (Bisley 2008: 85). In their alliance both sides risk being drawn into, or entrapped in, conflicts they might have otherwise avoided. For instance, the alliance enhancement is part of the reason for large increases in Chinese military spending, which is alarming to Japan as it risks being dragged into future Sino-US rivalry over Taiwan and China’s concern over the National Missile Defence (NMD) program expansion (Bisley 2008: 87-91). The main entrapment risk that the US faces in its alliance is the militarisation of the territorial disputes between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea (Curtis 2013). The US is at risk of being caught in the middle of this conflict, as it recognises Japan’s administrative control of the Islands but not its claim to sovereignty, and has denounced any actions from either side that could increase the dangers of a military conflict (Parrish 2013). Although this will test the alliance, amphibious military exercises such as the ‘Iron Fist’ – an important part of the military modernisation of Japan – are providing a functional form of cooperation between the US and Japan in a way that is not driven by highly politicised decisions such as the right to collective self-defence (Mauricio 2014). While this alliance will be tested under the reinterpretation of the constitution, both sides have a lot to gain as they now have more ability to handle their shared threat perceptions.

Since the reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution, the limits on how Japan can participate in international security affairs and in UN-led peacekeeping operations (UNPKO) will be relaxed. This will allow for expansion of the scope to assist in international security cooperation with the East Asian region and the UN (Stearn 2013: 138). Previously, the Japanese government has been associated with several UNPKO from Cambodia to the Golan Heights, despite the limits of the constitution. This is because JSDF support for military forces of other states that did not involve actual military combat – but simply support such as transport, maintenance, medical services, supply, guard duty and communications – was not deemed unconstitutional (Hughes 2006: 728). Examples of this kind of JSDF deployment abroad would include the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq. Although they provided humanitarian support as part of their alliance with the US, there was a reluctance to undertake conflict roles and commit to open-ended missions due to constitutional and political difficulties of being involved in a war that was not really theirs to fight (Bisley 2008: 80). These cases are used as examples by those against the use of collective self-defence because of the influence America has to draw Japan into unnecessary conflict. However, with the revision to Article 9 and a return to ‘normality’ in Japanese security policy, it is likely that the Japanese government would consider entering ‘coalitions of the willing’ under the right to collective self-defence if there was a direct threat to Japan. These actions would not likely be aggressive in nature, but rather as a way to work with the US to preserve stability in the region.

Finally, the reinterpretation of Article 9 has had certain repercussions for Japan’s regional relations. There is a perception that the right to exercise collective self-defence has contributed to security dilemmas and might, as an unintended consequence, contribute to instability of the region. China perceives Japan’s ability to break free from its post-war status as a threat exasperated further by Japan’s cooperation with the US in the BMD program. As discussed by Bisley, it is not entirely paranoid of China to view Japan’s participation in these programs as a distinct strategic challenge in the Sino-US rivalry over regional dominance (2008: 81). This is an example of where Japan’s constitutional change has been viewed through the lens of great power politics, rather than viewing it as a deterrent strategy to contribute to international peace and security. As discussed previously, part of the reason why Article 9 has been reinterpreted is so the military can act as a deterrent. However, with the nuclear weapons program testing in North Korea, there is a fear surrounding the extent to which the US will act to ensure denuclearisation (Bisley 2008: 89). Therefore, some states may be provoked by North Korea and enter into a ‘nuclear cascade’ effect where Japan, for example, might reconsider its nuclear options and then may be followed by South Korea who would be reacting to Japan’s position (Hughes 2007: 77). The Abe government and others would do better to focus on the regional order of East Asia where better diplomacy would be valued. Japan seems to be giving a great deal of focus to achieving security only through its military capabilities, with the human security agenda held on a much lower scale of priority (Bisley 2008: 43). Furthermore, Article 9 and Japan’s commitment to peace have served as a great source of soft power for the country. Joseph Nye explains that a country’s ‘soft power’ rests on 3 main resources: its culture, its political values and its foreign policies (2005). Soft power is hampered when any of these resources repel rather than attract. The reinterpretation of the constitution may be seen as threatening or ‘illegitimate’ to some states, which would decrease Japan’s soft power influence. However, if Japan shapes its foreign policy in a positive light and is seen as actively making contributions to international security, it will reduce scepticism internally and externally.

To conclude, the reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution by the DPJ is aimed to contribute to deterrence stability in the region, rather than an aggressive attempt to assert power. This change will allow Japan to ‘normalise’ and protect its own territory, as is a right of any sovereign nation. The reinterpretation of the constitution was explained and analysed, as well as the effects of the reinterpretation on the US-Japan alliance, followed by Japan’s newfound ability to operate military through the UN and international affairs, and the repercussions of these changes for regional international relations.

Sino-US Rivalry

I discuss how the rivalry between China and the US is affecting the regional order in Southeast Asia.

Power politics have plagued the states of Southeast Asia for decades. As China’s economy continues to grow, so too does her strategic and political power. The rise of China and what it will mean for the future of the region, and the global order, has been acknowledged by another great power that has held a significant presence – and intends to maintain that presence – in Southeast Asia; that being the United States (US). The Obama administration has responded to the more assertive presence of China by ‘re-engaging’ with Southeast Asia and renewing its focus on the strategic significance of the area. As the rivalry in Sino-US relations is becoming more of a reality, Southeast Asian states face the challenge of avoiding a negative super-power confrontation to preserve the regional order and stability they aspire to. The stability is threatened in terms of the effectiveness of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) being hindered and the institution becoming at risk of being polarised, as well as the regional order facing the challenge of the South China Sea disputes. The future of how Sino-US relations should proceed will also be discussed.

Since the creation of ASEAN, the multilateral institution has been a platform for managing regional order, and has evolved more as a security community than most other regions of the Global South (Ciorciari 2010a: 253). However, Sino-US rivalry poses a serious threat to the effectiveness of ASEAN, because it is at risk of becoming polarised as the two great powers pursue primacy in the region (Sukma 2012: 44). The institution is already dividing, with the 2015 goal of an ASEAN Community becoming increasingly unlikely (Wade 2011: 21). This divide can be linked to the rising economy of China and how states are increasingly engaging with China as an investment partner through aid and trade, which puts pressure on those states that traditionally hold close alignment with the US. The Philippines is an example of this, as China has offered billions of dollars of aid and preferential loans to the US ally in recent years (Ciorciari 2010b: 225). Trade between China and ASEAN has also increased from $10 billion in 1980 to over $200 billion in 2010, giving China an added level of influence in the ASEAN-6 states (Ciorciari 2010b: 225). One of the key questions facing Southeast Asia is how to have the opportunity of valued assistance from great-power allies when there is a threat to state security, without making undue enemies with the rival great power (Ciorciari 2010a: 240). It is for this reason that many states in this region have chosen to pursue limited alignments. By choosing this form of alignment, rather than tightly aligning with either the US or China, the developing countries are less susceptible to incurring high levels of vulnerability by becoming too dependent on a great power. While there may be a perceived need for some security support from the great powers, ‘tight alliance’ would only carry more threats if a military response was required – but the ASEAN norms of the regional approach to decision making, and aspirations of being largely autonomous may be able to minimise outside intervention that could leave the real security interests of ASEAN states undermined or even ignored in the swell of great-power politics (Ciorciari 2010a: 241 and Acharya 2009: 64). Adam Malik, a former vice president of Indonesia, commented on the effects of great-power influence, saying:

“Smaller nations of the region have no hope of ever making any impact on this pattern of dominant influence of the big powers, unless they act collectively and until they develop the capacity to forge among themselves an area of internal cohesion, stability and common purpose”. (Acharya 2009: 64-65)

While it is unlikely ASEAN will be able to control great-power interference in the affairs of Southeast Asia, regionalism will at least be useful to potentially add weight to the bargaining power of weak states in their dealings with the US and China (Acharya 2009: 64).

Furthermore, the new regional order in Southeast Asia is facing its first major test with the current South China Sea disputes. The US and China are in contestation over supremacy, maritime access and dominance in the strategic ocean (Sukma 2012: 43). This is a case of great-power politics interacting with intensifying sub-regional conflicts and intersecting in territorial disputes. The different claims to this territory are premised on national interests of the major powers, but also the entire region and the international system more broadly. The area is important for sea lines of communication and is rich in natural resources. Since the ‘Scarborough stand-off’ China has become more assertive which has heightened tensions. Her continued presence – and US interests in the South China Sea – has arguably become the major catalyst to justify the US ‘rebalance’ to the region (Majid 2012: 27,34). China has come to view the dispute as a tool being used by the US to contain China in their rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. This containment policy is not necessarily fuelled by the thought that China poses a ‘threat’ to the security of the region – although that idea does exist – but it has more to do with the ‘uncertainty’ surrounding Beijing’s pursuit of their interests, and China’s long term strategy. This ‘uncertainty’ and the response of the US and China can be understood also in international relations theory through John Herz’s ‘security dilemma’ (Herz 1950: 157). If the US ‘pivot’ develops into more of a ‘tough stance’ against China, this may force regional states to make a choice between the great powers, therefore undermining the interests and stability of the states being drawn into the conflict (Majid 2012: 29).

Future stability in Southeast Asia is far more likely to occur if the US and China agree to see each other as non-threatening equals who will work together to develop and enhance the region. The incentives are there, as they would both benefit from cooperative projects, where interdependence and economic growth could be enjoyed by everyone in the region (White 2012). However, the gap must first be drawn in between the two great powers by introducing a new cooperative framework that defines their shared key interests and outlines the reality of their strategic competition. A main problem in China’s perception of the South China Sea disputes is that it believes it holds historical claims of sovereignty over the region. As discussed by White (2012), China therefore views US intervention as intervention in the internal affairs of China. China is unlikely to be satisfied with the regional order until the legitimacy of its government is maintained, and also accepted by the US. Strong multilateral institutions could be a platform for diplomatic resolutions (Ciorciari 2010a: 248). Ideally, the member states of ASEAN could shape a future of good relations between the US and China. The best option for these states to take would be to remain flexible in their alliance for both major powers, which would in turn protect their regional credibility while subtly keeping the agenda of foreign powers at bay.

To conclude, the rivalry in Sino-US relations in Southeast Asia is becoming more of a reality, which poses a threat to the regional order. The ways in which super-power rivalry is affecting the regional order were discussed in terms of ASEAN’s role and how the multilateral institution faces the risk of polarisation, as well as the challenge of the South China Sea disputes, and finally what more cooperative super-power relations could mean for the future of the region. Ultimately, it is up to the power of Xi Jinping and Barack Obama to build a new order of Southeast Asia that will be an exception from the past.

The Problem of Universality in Human Rights

I critically reflect on the proposition that it is wrong to expect that international human rights law and regimes should be universally respected in the face of vastly different national, legal and cultural systems.

Following the end of the Second World War (WWII) and the atrocities associated with that conflict, the United Nations (UN) was created and the world community vowed to never let such atrocities occur on such a large scale again. As a result of the experience of WWII, world leaders considered a document that would guarantee the basic rights and fundamental freedoms of every individual in every nation. This document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, and since then has served as the foundation of international human rights law that states are bound to respect (United Nations 2014). One of the core principles of human rights, as set out in the UDHR, is that of universality – that the unity of states of broad diversity embracing the standards of UDHR speaks to human nature as being universal, because human rights are based in human nature (Donnelly 1984: 403). This principle of universality in human rights is therefore based on the assumption that all human beings are entitled to enjoy these rights without distinction (Kapur 2005: 673). Although virtually all states have embraced the standards set out by the UDHR, the notion that international human rights law and regimes should be universally respected has been a point of controversy, particularly to some Asian and Third World countries that view such documents as the UDHR as contradictory to their traditional societies, and based on Western and modern values that are not necessarily representative of such societies. Considering the diversity of states and people throughout the world, it may therefore be more effective to conceive of human rights under a more expansive notion of human rights, with varying ‘universalisms’ that are more inclusive of difference. This argument will be discussed by analysing how human rights have been conceived of in largely liberal and Western terms despite different national systems in the international community, as well as how legal systems have operated to implement human rights law on an international scale, and finally the perspective of Cultural Relativism – consisting of thought processes and values largely held by the non-Western world – will be discussed as it proposes an approach to human rights that is in direct opposition of Universalism.

Human rights have been conceived of largely liberal traditions, with focus on the relationship between the individual and the state causing the main degree of controversy in the application of international human rights. Charles Malik, who served as a rapporteur for the UN Commission on Human Rights and helped draft the UDHR, held the view that the individual has the right to receive all the protections and entitlements of international law, and that man’s humanity should not be dictated by total subordination to the State (Reinbold 2011: 162-163). The advancement of individual rights and human desires, as part of the ‘liberal project’, is made possible by nation-states recognising universal human rights (Kapur 2005: 668). By effectively regulating human life through the advancement of and care for the individual, the State in the current international system finds the foundation of its legitimacy and sovereignty (Reinbold 2011: 159). For instance, the Nazi state of Germany lost legitimacy when the individuals (victims of the concentration camps) were no longer perceived as “entities of inherent and irreducible value” (Reinbold 2011: 161). In cases such as this, the nature of the origins of human rights comes into question. Western thought would generally propose that human rights are a natural yearning of human beings and exist in a higher law than the State. In a speech following the ratification of the UDHR, Malik spoke about the pressures placed on individuals by governmental controls that threaten their humanity:

In this age of advancing governmental control, of national consciousness and sovereignty, it is difficult to convince man that he is not meant to be the slave of his Government; it is difficult to establish in his mind the right scale of values whereby he can see clearly that the State exists ultimately for his sake and in his service and not conversely. But unless we reject the total subordination of man to the State; unless, that is, we succeed not only in limiting the claims of the State on man, but also ensuring the State’s recognition of his claims on it, the battle for the fundamental rights and freedoms will have been virtually lost. (Reinbold 2011: 162)

One of the Declaration’s main obligations is to make sure that States do not interfere with the enjoyment of human rights. The wording of the Preamble of the UNDR recalls the Enlightenment way of thinking with arguments for equality and inalienability of rights (Reinbold 2011: 165; United Nations 2014). But as Ratna Kapur argues, there is also a ‘dark side’ to the universal and liberal traditions reflected in human rights law and regimes (2005: 674). Under the veil of being civilised nations, Western and liberal democratic states appear law abiding, well-ordered and tolerant – while less developed and undemocratic states in the illiberal world are cast as the places that are in need of human rights attention (Reinbold 2011: 681). Without the adoption of universal human rights values, these ‘lesser’ and ‘culturally backward’ countries may be left out of a community of so-called ‘civilised’ nations. Individualisation of the person in modern society, a concept alien to many traditional societies, is an un-interrogated assumption that gains a state entry into the global community of civilised nations. Therefore, states like China – constantly accused of human rights violations as they focus on collective rather than the individual’s rights – are left out of the community of civilised nations and cannot export their abuses to the ‘dark side’. The United States (US), however, has the power to push its human rights violations to the side, while still preaching human rights to the world, as it has done in places like Abu Ghraib, Iraq or Guantanamo Bay (Kapur 2005: 681).

The establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002 represented the first international standing judicial forum that could actually implement international criminal law and hold individuals accountable for violations such as: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression (Shawki and Cox 2009: 59). So far 122 states have adopted the Rome Statute, but it has only been ratified by 60 countries (ICC 2014). Despite being a self-proclaimed champion of human rights, the US is among those who have still not ratified the ICC, due to fear that Americans will be prosecuted (Roth 2014: 1). This speaks to the fact that human rights law is generally embraced by most states, but implementation of those laws is lacking. The Court has received a lot of negative attention because in its eleven-year history, only Africans have been prosecuted. There is the perception that this continent of people – although in need of attention to atrocities that have been committed – are being subject to an international standard of justice that is not applied to anyone else. The US resistance to facing the same kind of prosecution on actions in Iraq speaks to a lack of adequate ‘checks’ and ‘balances’, and the problem of the ICC having no real jurisdiction of non-signatory states. The universality of human rights is obviously not applied to the actual judicial processes of dealing with violations to human rights. This realisation may open up the door for heads of state to implement policies that would make them more immune in their own state to facing crimes under international treaties like the ICC’s (Roth 2014: 1). Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, wanted for directing violence in his country in 2007 and 2008, is already taking this kind of notion in stride, as he has used his position to avoid prosecution by the ICC on numerous occasions (Roth 2014: 1). This leaves room for the leader to commit more of the mass atrocities on his people that the ICC is supposed to prevent from happening. Although it is embraced by most states in theory to enforce international human rights law by prosecuting individuals, it is also a very tricky task and still widely ineffective to assume that all states are willing to succumb to limitations on their sovereignty and to follow international norms if it is not in the interests of their agenda.

Cultural Relativism asserts that liberal democracy and individual human rights are not representative of the political and social culture in Asia and Third World countries (Christie and Roy 2001: 2). The universal and Western inspired ideas about human rights values are therefore not easily transferable to many countries outside of the Western sphere. It is proposed that the West’s understanding of human rights, bound by their historical experiences, should not be asserted on regions with vastly different historical and cultural backgrounds (Christie and Roy 2001: 11). In a way, this kind of action disclaims the histories of the ‘Others’ by imposing a hegemonic discourse (Kapur 2005: 680). In discussion of the treatment of the ‘Other’ in human rights discourse, Kapur says that the ‘Other’ is “cast completely outside of western liberal democracy, defined as a threat to the nation-state, as backward, uncivilised and dangerous” (2005: 680). This kind of definition in the current international system of human rights justifies the denial of human rights protections to these ‘Others’. One could argue that this kind of rhetoric legitimised US intervention in Iraq in the initial stages because former President George W. Bush cast the ‘Other’ (or al-Qa’ida) as a threat to fundamental freedoms of humankind, even though the US was not itself acting with the purist intentions. Furthermore, Cultural Relativists hold that the validity of a moral right or rule is determined by the particular culture (Donnelly 1984: 400). This drives the scepticism that the West, or any culture for that matter, can claim wholesale moral superiority on human rights issues, and that the non-Western world has to follow these values and moral claims that do not derive from their own cultural context. The current human rights regime is also criticised for its dismissal of socioeconomic rights that are critical in politically unstable and underdeveloped countries. These states often put individual freedoms behind development and survival priorities, which is a proposition widely ignored by the West, a society that for the most part, has already developed and its human rights too have developed further in an environment of stability that allowed the change to occur (Christie and Roy 2001: 15). However, this can and has been used as a ploy for authoritarian regimes to sustain their power (Christie and Roy 2001: 18). The universal approach to human rights would argue that humans are human beings first, before they become influenced by culture, so therefore to be deprived of basic human rights under such excuses of putting development first to enhance the culture could make the individual more vulnerable. Chris Reus Smit agrees that ideas about human rights emerge in a western cultural context, but western cultural artefacts are not imposed on non-Western cultures, but emerge in the process of globalisation (2011: 1206). Rather than undermining the social cohesions in collectivist societies, individualism and human rights in any culture have developed organically alongside processes of globalisation such as industrialisation and increasing literacy rates – changes that transcend culture (Christie and Roy 2001: 21;25). Jusuf Wanandi, a Chinese-Indonesian politician and educator, captured part of the problem of the emergence of a human rights consciousness in relativist societies when he said, “[o]ur communal approach is definitely changing as a result of the influence of international values. What we need to find now is an appropriate mixture of individualism with continued respect for authority” (Christie and Roy 2001: 13). Rather than these societies being left behind from the universalist order of human rights laws and regimes, new ‘universalisms’ could be adopted in those societies that still want to hold on to cultural traditions and to develop economically, but are also finding that they have an inherent appreciation for freedom and equality.

To conclude, it is evident that the universal notion of international human rights law and regimes, as outlined in the UDHR, is not fully compatible with traditional societies as they often share very different values to the ‘modern’ world. This is not to say that the Declaration is of any less importance. It has set a precedent for further human rights regimes and laws to follow. However, considering the diversity of people and states around the world that must abide by this document, it would be more effective to allow for varying ‘universalisms’ to exist so that some countries are not left behind or excluded. This argument was presented through a discussion of how human rights have been largely conceived of in liberal and Western terms, then the operation of legal systems to implement human rights law internationally was discussed, and finally the Cultural Relativist perspective was analysed and the emergence of ‘universal’ values in those societies and what this means for human rights was considered.

Freedom and Democracy Promotion

I argue that the effectiveness of the US and Western approach to spreading freedom through the promotion of democracy has been undermined. This approach has been discredited and accused as being a ploy to pursue their own interests in the name of ‘democracy promotion’.

What do you think of former President George W. Bush’s plea that in order to defeat the enemies of freedom, free nations should concert together to promote democracy?

Former President George W. Bush sought to do more to foster democracy following the announcement of the War on Terror. Setting the promotion of democracy at the centre of American foreign policy, Bush proclaimed to the world that in order to defeat the enemies of freedom, free nations should concert together to promote democracy. He pledged that he would “strengthen democracy and advance peace around the world” (Collins and Rothe 2014: 10). The United States’ (US) approach to spreading democracy has been controversial in nature and in many places widely discredited, as the country is often out to pursue its own interests in the name of ‘democracy promotion’. Having received a high level of dissonance, the effectiveness of the US and Western approach to spreading freedom through the promotion of democracy has therefore been undermined. This will be shown first by outlining the Bush Doctrine of democracy promotion and how actions taken in that name have directly undermined liberal internationalist theory, followed by discussing the effects that the spreading of democracy can have on global security, and finally how democracy and freedom promotion has been used as a guise for the West to pursue its own interests.

The Bush Doctrine emerged as a strategy to combat terrorism after the attacks on Washington and New York in September 2001. In an effort to foster democracy to create more peace and security in the Middle East, and also to defend the US from further terrorist threats, President Bush announced:

America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world… And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbours, the advance of freedom will lead to peace. (Bush 2005)

In this process of advancing the spread of democracy, Iraq lay at the centre of America’s strategy. In 2005, with the fall of Saddam Hussein, elections were held and a refurbished constitution was submitted to Iraqi voters (Dillingham 2005). Admittedly, this was a positive step forward and provoked broader change throughout the Middle East. However, in prosecuting the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, the Bush administration revealed a very selective approach to democracy and human rights – one with a shocking disregard for the norms pertaining to the treatment of prisoners, and also disdain for international law (Dillingham 2005). The case of Iraq therefore undermines liberal internationalist theory. This theory, developed by Anne-Marie Slaughter, posits that the internal construction of a liberal state – with domestic values of political and civil rights, rule of law, representative democracy and compliance with international law – determines and reflects the international behaviour of such a state (Kent 2002: 55). In the case of the US (a ‘liberal’ state) in Iraq, however, it did not comply with international rules and the international human rights system that it espouses in its own democracy at home (Roberts 2004: 725). The state failed to obtain backing from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), showed hostility towards the International Criminal Court (ICC), was responsible for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and failed to hold people of seniority accountable (Dillingham 2005). Cases such as US action in Iraq have therefore left their support for democracy and their intentions open to question.

Democracy promotion, whether it be by the US or other Western states, has effected global security. Bush held the view that the spread of freedom would lead to better international security. Former US Ambassador to Hungary, Mark Palmer, agreed that due to the threat of dictatorial regimes to international security, the 20th century was “the bloodiest in human history” (Dillingham 2005). In contrast, there is the view that the spread of democracy may actually undermine global security in certain situations. This is premised on cases where the process of becoming a liberal democracy has been violent in nature, rather than arising from democratic elections (Dillingham 2005). States that have had democracy forced upon them before they experience liberalism tend to become ‘illiberal democracies’, defined by a large amount of internal instability that may cross borders into other regions (Dillingham 2005). This in turn creates a climate of global insecurity. In the case of democracy promotion in the Middle East, the difficulties of establishing liberal regimes were underestimated. Foreign states from the West projected idealist discourses in the Arab Spring, namely Egypt, that directly contradict previous policies and positions held by that state and its people (Collins and Rothe 2014: 5). As discussed by General William Oden, an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq, “liberal regimes inexorably become more democratic” (Dillingham 2005). The problem that free nations face when promoting democracy, then, is how to promote liberalism and create liberal democracies – with elections, the rule of law, protection of basic human rights and choice of the leader of the state – rather than just simply implanting a democratic institution that could be corrupted by the ‘enemies of freedom’.

Finally, the promotion of democracy has too often been used as a guise for the West to pursue its own interests. Existing social movements for the promotion of democracy and freedom have often been based on the geopolitical interests of Western states, over real concerns for democracy, humanitarian concerns and justice (Collins and Rothe 2014: 1). One example would be the contradictions in US support of the Arab Spring uprisings and subsequent removal of President Mubarak from Egypt. In this case the US supported the movement but also the backing of repressive regimes (Collins and Rothe 2014: 2). For instance, the US viewed the existence of Arab autocrats as the best way to sustain the flow of oil, which would be in their best interests, rather than the existence of ‘unfriendly regimes’ of democratically elected governments (Collins and Rothe 2014: 10,16). The access to oil was effectively prioritised over demands for democracy and removal of authoritarian leaders. Furthermore, although freedom is meant to be the main influence for their intervention in the Middle East, actual foreign policy that favours US military and economic interests quickly gains priority (Carothers 2007: 5). The promotion of freedom is used as a line of intervention, in such cases as the ‘War on Terror’. The validity of the assumptions that US democracy promotion was built on in the past has been eroded, as the great power tries to hold its status by maintaining a form legitimacy and authority in these regions through manipulation of the democratisation process (Collins and Rothe 2014: 7). Therefore, if the spread of freedom is to be successful, there would need to be a reduction in the Bush approach to US democracy policy by enforcing some real pressure for change in autocratic regimes, and cooperating with international states and organisations.

To conclude, former President George W. Bush’s plea to defeat the enemies of freedom through the promotion of democracy has been widely discredited and relatively unsuccessful. This was proved evident by discussing the Bush Doctrine of democracy promotion in Iraq and how that directly undermines liberal internationalist theory, then analysing the negative effects that promoting democracy in certain places can have on global security, and finally how freedom promotion is often undertaken in the interests of the West. The spread of violence can potentially be decreased by the spread of liberal democracy, but not under the Bush-inspired strategy, and not without other matters of development and international security being taken into account.

US-UN Relations

In 1945, following the end of a horrible era of conflict during World War II (WWII), the United Nations (UN) was created as a pillar of hope for a more multilateral world society and international order. The UN Charter was ratified by the five great powers and other important signatories, with the United States (US) being of pivotal importance to its creation (United Nations 2014). The US President in 1941, Franklin Roosevelt, gave a famous speech that outlined universal freedoms that all people (at that time specifically in reference to Americans, but later applied to all peoples) deserved to posses (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum 2014). These ‘Four Freedoms’ were later included in the Charter, ensuring that the democratic values of the US shaped the very basis for all UN activities and operations in the future. Despite core values held by the US being present in this international institution, the super power has had an increasingly strained and at times hostile relationship with the UN, mainly due to growing multipolarity and perceived threats to US hegemony. In this essay the characteristics of the US’s relationship with the UN will therefore be defined as: the US constantly being in pursuit of their own interests – up until and including the Bush administration – over the benefit of existing in a multilateral society; acting without UN authorisation and therefore bringing the legitimacy of the UN as an international form of governance into question; and finally how US policy is trying to become more engaged and multilateral under the Obama administration at attempts to improve relations with the UN. Following this, suggestions will be made on how this strained relationship can be improved to better the chances for effective global governance.

Despite the US being a strong advocate of multilateralism at the foundation of the UN, the state has become increasingly unwilling to be multilateral and to fall in line with international law (Hanson 2007: 94). It is argued by many states within the General Assembly (GA), and also perceived by many in international society, that the US approach is to ‘go-it-alone’ and be separate from the rest of the world as a leader. In the eyes of the US, working in the UN in many cases has hindered their ability to act freely, with the constraints of multilateral diplomacy being ever present (Hanson 2007: 104). Of course, resisting the constraints of international law and cooperation is a common theme played out among the great powers, as they all compete for the hegemonic status they had in the days closely following the end of WWII. However, it is the US claim to ‘exceptionalism’ from the politics and policy that the rest of the world has to follow that causes much of the anti-American sentiment in the UN (Hanson 2007: 96). The state prides itself on being a free and fair country and condemns any nation or actor who would act illegitimately or inhibit world order, but in many cases the US is unwilling to stand on this same platform of being subject to such condemnation, because it is not in their interests to do so. This type of attitude frames the country as being above the law. One instance of this would be the US opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC). For a country that had advocated that states be held accountable for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and various violations of humanitarian law, it did not take well to the development of an institution separate from the control of the UN Security Council (SC) that could prosecute against these crimes (The Coalition for the ICC 2006: 1). Initially, the US wanted the ICC to be under control of the SC so it had a stance in deciding what cases could be prosecuted by the Court – again, acting in their own interests (Amnesty International 2007). However, it was made clear that an independent body would be used to avoid any illegitimate or politically-motivated prosecutions. Despite this precaution, at the Rome Conference in 1988, the US used its veto power within the UN to vote against the adoption of the Rome Statute (The Coalition for the ICC 2006: 1). By doing this, the US showed its refusal to be restricted by an institution that could hold their political leaders and their military accountable to a global standard of justice. This was seen by the world, and actors such as Amnesty International (2007), as a move that valued politics over the law, and their own interests over those of the multilateral UN system. The support of the US on huge issues such as international prosecution is central to the effectiveness of the UN, as it reinforces their legitimacy as a global governing institution. Unfortunately, after the later support shown by President Bill Clinton in signing the Rome Statute on 31 December 2000, the Bush administration ‘suspended’ that signature and asserted that it was not in the interests of the US to be involved in the ICC (The Coalition for the ICC 2006: 1). These kinds of blatant dismissals of conforming to international laws and participating in multilateralism carried through to the Bush administrations handling of the Iraq invasion. 

Following the death of eighteen American soldiers in the ‘Black Hawk Down’ operation in Somalia, the relationship between the US and the UN became further strained, with America choosing to fully withdraw its support for the peacekeeping mission (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 226; Hanson 2007: 101). American anti-UN sentiment grew strong during this period as the country viewed the UN’s actions as a failure (despite the fact that the UN was not involved in that headhunt for General Aidid in October 1993) and began to question its very existence (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 226). Blame was given predominately to the Secretary General at the time, Boutros Ghali, who was ousted by the US. This was reflective of the Americans trying to control the global agenda. It should be mentioned that the state-centric nature of the Charter and even US policy inevitably causes conflict, with the Secretary General holding such great responsibility for embodying ideas and goals of the Charter, which means the world often sees this one person as representing interests of other UN Member states (Rivlin 1997: 203). The US of course wants to be responsible for its own interests. Former US ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, even described Boutros Ghali as trying to become “chief executive officer of the world” (Rivlin 1997: 203). The undemocratic ousting of the former Secretary General was followed by the country taking a step back from the UN, and continuing to focus on achieving its own national interests. The particular example of this would be the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, in response to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001. The ‘war on terror’ took place under the Bush administration, and sent a clear message to the world that the US would not be restricted by the UN in its unilateral pursuit. The US acted without the authorisation of the SC, who felt that the US had no legitimate cause to go to war (Hanson 2007: 107). That this situation was allowed to occur makes criticism of Article 51 of the UN Charter an easy target. The Article states the right to self-defence from an armed attack against Members of the UN, however it also gives weight to the SC as being the group that states have to answer to in order to go ahead with retaliation (Charter of the UN 1945). It explicitly states that the actions of Member states will in no way “affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council” (Charter of the UN 1945). The authority of the SC was clearly disregarded by the US, which blatantly infringed on the credibility of the UN as the leading form of global governance. In an organisation that is predominately state-centric, with super powers on the SC who are unwilling to compromise on their sovereignty, Article 51 is fictional in circumstances where the sovereignty of a state is at risk following an attack, because serious recourse is not taken to the SC (Anderson 2012: 113). The image of the US, not only the UN, was scared by this action against Iraq and against UN authority. Millions of people around the world marched in protest of the war in Iraq and against the US, spreading the scope of anti-Americanism further with signs dubbing it the ‘rogue nation’ (Prestowitz 2008: 5). Although these characteristics of the US ‘acting out’ and being ‘above the law’ have been predominant features of its existence within the UN, the SC’s refusal to agree that force was warranted in Iraq meant that any future support the institution would offer to the Americans would be more credible (Tharoor 2003: 71). With the election of a new President, Barack Obama, a new characteristic of the US-UN relationship emerged.

The US has strived to redefine their relationship with the UN since the euphoric days following the election of the new president. The Obama administration has reframed the language used in policy and discussion about the UN in attempts to achieve world approval (Anderson 2012: 2). Trying to decrease negative sentiment towards the US, the super power is framing all its strategies around ‘engaging’ with society to be ‘multilateral’ in its operations that happen through the global institution of the UN (Anderson 2012: 1). Despite these attempts, the relationship is still unsettled, although far less hostile than the days of the Bush administration and those preceding it. When Obama took the chair of the SC in 2009, as the first US President to do so, it signified a shift to a more cooperative relationship with the UN (Morris 2009: 1). The country is actively working with the UN to tackle problems such as climate change and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It has also made a step that is, for many Americans, a move that contradicts a core element of the Second Amendment of its Constitution: that move being the signing of the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). This treaty was signed by Secretary John Kerry on behalf of the Obama administration on 25 September 2013 (US Department of State 2014). At the time of writing, 118 states have signed the treaty, but only 32 have ratified it (UNODA 2014). Although the US has made a positive step forward by signing the ATT, until it is fully ratified by the US and others its efficiency at improving world peace and security is hindered. Without support from the US, it will be difficult for the UN to implement national arms controls or have the ability that the US might have to put pressure on states to accept the treaty. Regardless, this is just one example of how the US is attempting to reframe its relationship with the UN under the Obama administration, by following more multilateral lines of policy thinking. There are improvements that could be made now and in the future to ensure that the US remains of pivotal importance to the UN and continues to have its ideals for a global system of governance and order implemented by the institution.

The centre of a majority of problems that restrain the UN’s ability to take action in maintaining the peace is the state-centric nature of the institution. While valuing state sovereignty, states need to be willing to sacrifice levels of flexibility so that effective global governance can be achieved and all nations can benefit from the spread of multilateralism. This would involve the US not giving in to the competitive nature of multipolarity and not being weakened by the threat of uncertainty that characterises much of the debate within the SC (Anderson 2012: 19-20). After all, multilateralism will be the key to ensuring the periphery does not continue to be left behind (Tharoor 2003: 78). As the US moves forward in developing its relationship with the UN, it should keep in mind that ‘engaging’ must mean doing so within the framework of the UN, where the international system of law applies above a nation’s own sovereign interests (Anderson 2012: 16). Furthermore, it is recommended that the bureaucracy in general that has plagued UN operations be removed, and instead have authority distributed to the situations on the ground – to the people that really count in a crisis (Bellamy, Morrison and Shays 2006: 89). Ultimately, the US needs the UN. It needs to reduce negative animosity associated with the UN in its own country by better educating the public of the institution’s function within international society (Anderson 2012: 11; Hanson 2007: 112). If the US wants to remain legitimate as a great power and have an input into how the global environment is being shaped, it needs to reconsider how it will work with the UN in the future.

In summary, the strained relationship between the US and the UN was characterised by disinterest in participating multilaterally, as shown by the case of the ICC. The consequences of the US acting without UN authorisation in the case of Iraq were also discussed, with the final characteristic of the relationship being outlined under the Obama administration’s approach to bettering US-UN relations. Recommendations for improvement to future relations, that would frame the future effectiveness of the UN as an institution of global governance, were also made.

Australia’s Assimilation Policy Phase

Indigenous affairs have always been a controversial and complicated policy subject. Labelling it ‘Indigenous’ affairs policy is discriminatory and ignorant in itself because it disregards the diversity of Indigenous cultures around the world, and the distinctiveness of Australian Aboriginality as a culture of its own, separate from other Indigenous cultures. Aborigines associate a lot of the policy that has been implemented with a loss of their Aboriginality and their sense of belonging. These policies have always been based on Aborigines being a ‘problem’ that white society needs to ‘solve’ (Maddison 2009: 1). One policy phase in particular is widely considered as being a non-progressive and negative government initiative that was used to justify their role in destroying the lives of a significant and historic cultural group of people. This policy was framed by settler-nationalist imperatives and the commonly held view that Aboriginality was undesirable in the vision for a modern Australia (Moran 2005: 169). The assimilation policy, implemented from the mid 1900s to early 1970s, was driven by both biological and cultural visions. It was defined by Aboriginal affairs ministers in 1963 as a policy that would mean that Aborigines of ‘full-blood’ and ‘mixed-decent’ would be given the opportunity to join the Western ‘way of life’ (Chesterman and Douglas 2004: 48). This was a contradictory and conflicting policy phase that led to the further disruption of the lives of Aboriginal people. This will be proved by critically discussing the assimilation policy phase in order of biological assimilation, followed by an analysis of a prominent assimilationist Paul Hasluck. Then cultural assimilation will be discussed, with an advocate of cultural assimilation policy, Adolphus Peter Elkin (A. P. Elkin), analysed next. Finally it will be shown how citizenship was used as a tool in the policy discourse.

The 1930s saw a shift in policy position with a focus on more regulation of Aboriginals and the further incorporation of ‘mixed races’ into white society (Chesterman and Douglas 2004: 56). This change in policy followed the Australian government facing the implications of having removed a huge population of Indigenous people from their communities to be placed on reserves under so-called ‘protection’ regimes in the 1920s (Chesterman and Douglas 2004: 51). The difficulties that surfaced with the problem of how to handle the rise of ‘mixed race’ children would only increase as Western society continued to separate the Aboriginal people from white society (Chesterman and Douglas 2004: 58). Especially in the Northern Territory, there was a fear in the white community that their population would be surpassed and dominated by the ‘Coloured’ majority (Chesterman and Douglas 2004: 52). There was also the feeling that ‘half-caste’ Aborigines threatened the purity of white Australia and its culture. White racial nationalism was still prevalent at this point; with many viewing Aborigines of ‘mixed-decent’ as a degenerate mix between people (Moran 2005: 174). In 1937 State and Territory administrators held a conference in Canberra, where the policy shift was reported most clearly. The conference stated that:

The destiny of the natives of aboriginal origin, but not of the full blood, lies in their ultimate absorption by the people of the Commonwealth and it therefore recommends that all efforts be directed to that end. (Chesterman and Douglas 2004: 57)

There was general agreement within the Australian administration that the real problem lay with ‘half-castes’ rather than the ‘full-bloods’, because it was assumed they would eventually ‘die-out’ anyway (Broome 2002: 165). Although some assimilationists were responsible for implementing policies that aimed to ‘breed out’ Aboriginality, the vast majority wanted to force ‘mixed-race’ Aboriginals to be absorbed into white Australia (Chesterman and Douglas 2004: 58). This effectively meant that ‘half-castes’ were offered opportunities that ‘full-bloods’ were deemed unworthy to receive (Moran 2005: 174). These opportunities for ‘uplift’ were framed in a biological sense by using the existence of European blood as a way to claim their right to join white society, and also, in a way, to claim ownership of ‘half-castes’ by the white race (Moran 2005: 174). The rising number of ‘half-castes’ or ‘mixed-race’ Aborigines carried complex messages about the notions of race, culture and nation. This group of people was viewed by settlers as ‘Aboriginal’ but ‘not Aboriginal’ (Moran 2005: 173). Western society has generally had a need for everything to have a clear definition, for things to be labelled as ‘one thing’ or ‘another’. Mary Graham (2014) refers to this as “white man’s need to clarify people”. This way of thinking is expressive of how Aborigines of mixed decent were treated by Westerners, and was the underlying problem of Indigenous affairs policy during this period and in the future. 

Paul Hasluck was the Minister for Territories in 1951, and responsible for reshaping the policy of assimilation. He held the view that Aboriginality belonged to the past and that Aboriginal views only served as an obstacle to the development of the Australian nation. He justified assimilation policy by saying that the future of ‘stranded individuals’ who had experienced the impact of the West lay in adopting the ‘way of life’ and values of white society (McGregor 2002: 43). During the period where Hasluck held influence over Aboriginal affairs, the powers of surveillance were intensified and the lives of Indigenous people were severely disrupted and altered (Moran 2005: 191). He was instrumental in developing one of the main tools in policy introduced to steam role the assimilation process. The Northern Territory Welfare Ordinance of 1953, brought into operation in 1957, was drafted by Hasluck and others. Not once in this piece of Aboriginal legislation was any specific reference made to ‘Aborigines’, but instead the terminology was crafted to refer to Aboriginal people as ‘certain persons’ (McGregor 2005: 513). The legislation was based on Hasluck’s belief that Aborigines needed to be ‘protected’ from themselves and white society until they had developed appropriately to handle the responsibility of citizenship (Moran 2005: 186). Under this scheme, those deemed ‘uncivilised’ were made ‘wards of the State’ where training and education would be provided (McGregor 2005: 513). The legislation served as a form of Aboriginal governance in the hands of white society and did face criticism. While it was claimed that Aboriginal people were to become the same as the rest of society, this idea was contradictory as policies such as these denied them equal rights and opportunities. The Victorian Council for Aboriginal Rights accused this scheme of being a way for the Commonwealth government to hide racist sentiments in an official way, during the sensitive post war era (McGregor 2005: 514). Hasluck’s influence of Indigenous affairs certainly saw no room for choice or self-determination for Aborigines.

Another phase in policy during this period was cultural assimilation. After World War II and the end of the Nazi era, there was severe negative sentiment associated with any nation that harboured racism in its policy. Therefore, in the 1940s it was desired by Australian policy makers to preserve their cultural homogeneity, because it was believed that this would lead to modernisation and national progress. This led to the adoption of assimilation policy because rather than striving for a pure, European society, policy thinkers wanted Aborigines to be fully absorbed into white society and its ‘way of life’ (Moran 2005: 170). The majority of assimilationists wanted to force ‘mixed race’ people to integrate with white society, in a cultural sense, to end the many difficulties of trying to separate Indigenous and white Australians. This idea of ‘ultimate absorption’ was promising to many supporters of this policy (Chesterman and Douglas 2004: 58). The argument behind this period of assimilation policy was that of cultural assertion. There was a perception that white Australians were entitled to decide upon the future of their society so that their settler heritage could be preserved (Moran 2005: 178). This meant making decisions about how Aboriginal culture would be assimilated into the dominant Western culture. Aborigines were forced to give up their cultural traditions and community ties to prove that they could incorporate themselves into white society. This was done through assimilation efforts such as housing Aboriginal people in mostly white areas, breaking up the reserves, and forcing them into Western employment, training and education schemes (Moran 2005: 179). Although many of these efforts were initially resisted by a proportion of the white community, assimilation policy was encouraged by the Commonwealth government who sought to shift white Australian opinion on the need to ‘uplift’ these ‘unfortunate’ people (Moran 2005: 179). This was done by launching a propaganda campaign on the need to incorporate Aborigines into mainstream society.

A. P. Elkin was the most prominent non-Aboriginal activist and anthropologist in Australia during the 1930s and 1940s (Moran 2005: 181). During this time anthropology had become a tool used by the government to understand, develop and control Aboriginal people (Gray 1998: 58). Elkin was an advocate for cultural assimilation policy whose views were based on settler-nationalism and the assumption of European superiority. Although he did share some similar thoughts to others in the political sphere such as Hasluck, he was aware that the Western institutions responsible for carrying out the assimilation process could be the undoing of the scheme as many would seek to destroy Aboriginal culture in its entirety. Rather than being a destructive policy phase, Elkin viewed assimilation as a chance for Australia to progress, in terms of achieving social order and solidarity (Moran 2005: 181). His ideas contrasted to those held by biological assimilationists. Rather than viewing ‘half-castes’ as a ‘stain’ on the nation, cultural assimilationists like Elkin held the view that nation building was instead reliant upon the importance of culture, values and attitudes of the people. Initially Elkin was unsure about whether Aborigines could become ‘civilised’ and thought that training would be necessary to ‘improve’ them as individuals before they could gain citizenship. He believed this training would benefit from the inclusion of Aboriginal beliefs and world views, however this would only be viable if they didn’t clash with the aspirations of modern civilisation (Moran 2005: 183). Like much assimilation policy, this is a contradictory and obsolete way of thinking. It is obvious that the views of an Indigenous culture are going to clash with those of a Western society. The training and education schemes were therefore a way for white society to further dissolve the existence of Aboriginality. In areas where Elkin had an influence over Aboriginal affairs, many Aboriginal people experienced ‘cultural devastation’ and ‘moral blindness’ (Moran 2005: 183). He saw ‘full-blooded’ Aborigines as the true epitome of Aboriginality, but to him this cultural tie was not deserving of ‘mixed-blood’ races. He further separated these groups by following enlightened views about preserving the ‘full-bloods’ and moving ‘mixed-bloods’ into Christian communities where they could find a sense of belonging that they apparently lacked, being caught between white and black society – they belonged to neither one nor the other (Moran 2005: 183). In the 1960s Elkin began to recognise the advantage of group assimilation, rather than focusing on the ‘individual’ being absorbed into white society (Moran 2005: 185). In contrast to Hasluck, he realised the importance of group identity in this culture and how their traditions, values and beliefs would be absolutely necessary in the process of their development.

Furthermore, citizenship was an issue that framed a lot of the discussion around Indigenous assimilation policy. Although many of the government views about having to earn and be trained for citizenship carried racist and negative connotations, many Aboriginal political movements embraced the categories for citizenship knowing it was the only way of entering the white dominated discourse (Gray 1998: 61). This came at the risk of surrendering their Aboriginality, however, because many ‘full-blooded’ Aborigines in particular were controlled on reserves and settlements (Gray 1998: 62). Citizenship also represented the contradictions in this policy era. By definition, citizenship is thought of as a ‘birth right’, not something that has to be earned. However, citizenship was divided into those who automatically obtained it at birth, and those who had to be granted ‘full citizenship’ (Gray 1998: 66). This is representative of the pattern throughout a history of complicated Settler-Aboriginal relations where the Aborigines have had to demonstrate themselves and meet up to expectations set by white society. Indigenous Australians faced surrendering their cultural traditions and values in order to be admitted into, and accepted by, white society (Gray 1998: 67). They were, and in many ways still are, governed by institutions and a system that does not make sense to them, yet they have been forced to comply with it. Elkin was among many who viewed the attainment of citizenship by Aborigines as a ‘reward’ for being like the rest. In an ignorant dismissal of equal rights, he was quoted as saying, “their non-use of a legal right will not cause any confusion” (Gray 1998: 68). It was not until the mid 1960s that assimilation policy shifted and the notion of ‘choice’ was really introduced for Aborigines about whether they wanted to join a single Australian community (Broome 2002: 177). These changes coincided with the changes happening in Australia as it was becoming more multi-cultural and needed to accept this shift in its policy. Aboriginal people became increasingly capable of having a say in their affairs, as a majority of European control of their organisations was diminished (Broome 2002: 179). Despite these changes, discrimination against Aboriginals continued. This brought on a rise in protest movements such as the Freedom Ride in 1965 in northern New South Wales (Broome 2002: 180). Movements such as these prompted political action where the government was forced to develop a better national strategy (Markus and Attwood: 1999: 172). Further progress was made in the 1967 referendum proposals where 89 per cent of voting Australians agreed that Aborigines had the right to be included in the census count (Broome 2002: 182). It was also agreed that federal government would be given power to legislate for Indigenous Australians, which eliminated some of the domineering power held by the States. This power to speak for Aboriginal people, and the power to control whom was worthy to become a citizen, was not fully indicative of Aborigines being accepted into Western society. In many ways these policy decisions during the assimilation period further alienated Aborigines from not only the dominant discourse, but their own culture as well.

To conclude, the critical discussion of Australian assimilation policy and assimilation advocates in the mid 1900s to early 1970s has shown how this major policy phase was destructive of Aboriginal culture and ultimately contradictory in nature. While it was championed as a way to modernise the nation by incorporating Aborigines into Western society, it rather served as a means for governments to justify their racist, settler-nationalist imperatives. This policy, and most of the policy implemented to this date, has left Aborigines with the problem of knowing who they really are and how to adjust to the ways of the ‘white man’, because that is the only terms of reference they have ever been offered to go by since our invasion.

Comparing Successful and Unsuccessful Spin

I explore two cases of spin doctoring: the transformation of the British royal family is used an example of successful spin, and the handling of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 as an unsuccessful example of spin.

This assignment was written in early 2014 for a communications subject, in which I received a High Distinction.

With the development of liberal democracies around the world, a new kind of ‘communication professional’ has emerged that is different to anything seen before. These communicators are known as spin doctors or Public Relations (PR) personnel, who work closely with journalists to create and steer public opinion (Louw, 2014a). This essay will introduce two examples of spin doctors ‘creating spin’ and steering the public’s opinion – one example being successful and one unsuccessful. Successful spin will be shown using the example of the transformation of the British royal family, and then the handling of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 will be discussed as an unsuccessful example of spin. A summary of the core terms relevant to this essay will be provided, and following that, what led to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the spin or PR campaign’s mentioned will be analysed.

Spin doctor teams write the scripts that need to be performed by the politicians, or other performers such as a company representative or public figure. These scripts are designed for an audience, be it a mass audience or the journalists, and the spin doctor team knows what works to hook the different audiences (Louw, 2014b). Journalists use information gathered by public opinion pollsters to report on the public’s response. Spin doctors are interested in what the public thinks, and depend upon this information when writing their scripts and improving public opinion for their cause. All of the players within the media machine and the political machine therefore depend upon each other in this symbiotic relationship to steer politics or a cause in a certain direction (Louw, 2014b). Steering public opinion is the exact goal of any spin doctor, as they try to build consent and are therefore responsible for setting the agenda, more so than politicians or journalists (Louw, 2014c).

Successful Spin – The Royals:

The spin team of the British royal family has without a doubt achieved one of the most successful examples of spin to date. The entire image of the royals has been recrafted to be more likeable, following what was dubbed a PR disaster with the royal family’s initial response to Princess Diana’s premature death in 1997 (Davies, 2012). They were viewed as being out of touch with society and came across as ‘cold’. The Monarchy at this time was viewed as being a kind of remote, distant and out dated institution; however, good spin by the spin doctoring team at Clarence House Press Office (which represents William “Will”, the Prince of Wales and Catherine “Kate” Middleton, the Duchess of Cornwall) has preserved the idea of the monarchy existing in a largely democratic society by recreating them, especially the young royals, as celebrities.

The wedding of Kate and Will and an addition to the royal family, with the arrival of their first son Prince George, has attracted global attention and been widely covered by the media. The communications secretary at Clarence House, Paddy Harverson, is known as a ‘PR genius’ for using social media and the press to make the royal wedding of Kate and Will “the global PR event of the year” in 2012 (Gray, 2012, p. 7). The spin team has worked to revitalise the royal family with a breath of fresh air – that being a monarch, Prince William, who “embraces rather than scorns middle class values” (Levin, 2013). The marriage of Will to Kate symbolised a step ‘back to basics’ for the royals, as she is from a humble background and holds strong middle class values (Levin, 2013). These values are what makes these young royals that much more relatable to the rest of us, and are what will be of pivotal importance in the PR team’s script writing for years to come. Cashmore (2006) talks about being parasocial in the context of the relationship between celebrities and consumers saying it “is an interesting term that captures the way we think and feel about people we don’t know and who don’t know us but who sometimes unwittingly and unknowingly move us to act, occasionally in erratic and emotional ways”. In other words, the consumers (the audiences interested in the lives of the royal family) are left feeling like they know these people that they have never met, however the relationship doesn’t really consist of a genuine interaction, rather a one-way discourse (Cashmore, 2006). This sense of familiarity is consciously constructed by those PR experts in the ‘fame game’, and is also known as Impression Management (Louw 2014d).

The media assists in this whole process by making the celebrities, Kate and Will, appear more important because they are in the media constantly (Louw, 2010). It is this constant image in the public domain that causes them to have instant recognition as media personalities, and it is from here that their fame derives (Louw, 2014d). To achieve their ‘celebrity-ness’ and build on their popularity and consent from the citizens of the monarchy, the royal couple have had to perform very well ‘tele-visually’. It is the ‘human interest’ stories that work best for the royals because they generate a personalised message. The spin doctoring team at Clarence House would be working around the clock to ensure that Kate and Will’s tele-visual capabilities enhance their celebrity-ness. Narratives are being constructed by the spin team for the press to follow. For instance, the transformation of Prince Harry’s reputation has also attributed to the increased likeability of the royals, by changing his image as that of “an obnoxious drunk, stumbling out of nightclubs [and] dressing as a Nazi” to one where he is seen serving the armed forces in Afghanistan, recasting him as a national treasure (Gray, 2012, p. 9). Furthermore, virtually every news channel in Australia and New Zealand is currently capturing the royal couple, as they tour these countries under British monarchy with their son. This has been a great visual opportunity for the spin team to broadcast a sense of ‘ordinariness’ about the royals, which the citizens of these far-away countries under monarchy will find reassuring to be able to relate to these celebrity figures that they see in magazines and their news feeds constantly. Journalists have given very positive and regular coverage of the royal visit, hyping up the event and dragging along a mass audience of royal followers on their news websites, newspapers and social media. Many publications have even provided a constant news cycle and updates of where Will and Kate are visiting and what they have been doing. The royal’s PR team has incorporated all the right elements for a successful spin, transforming their ‘out of touch’ appearance into one that is much more relatable, and will ensure the continuation of a modern monarch into the foreseeable future.

Unsuccessful Spin – Missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370:

This example of unsuccessful spin is a crisis that has attracted attention on an international scale. There were 239 passengers on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 from 14 different nationalities. The Boeing 777 ‘disappeared’ on 8 March 2014 and has prompted a multinational search effort, with no ‘sure’ resolution found at this time of writing. The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur airport at 12.41am and was expected to arrive in Beijing at 6.30am the same day (Malaysia Airlines, 2014). Missing flight MH370 has sparked controversy around the world with unanswered questions for the families involved, as well as conspiracy theories and speculation about it’s disappearance being voiced to the public by the media, and a general mistrust in regards to the Malaysian government’s and Malaysia Airlines’ handling of the crisis. The Malaysia Airlines PR team and crisis management teams have failed to control the negative sentiment surrounding flight MH370, by failing to steer public opinion in their favour and therefore failing to control what gets on the agenda.

A marketing blog has talked about the uncertainty surrounding the missing flight and how the PR team have worked so far to handle the crisis, saying:

With no contact from the plane and passengers, as well as the absence of wreckage or any terrorist group making claim of this being an attack, this is adding to the myriad varying speculation/theories and increasing the negative sentiment of Malaysian Airlines; a result that is very understandable. (Liston, 2014, p. 3)

The speculation has been heightened in the media following the missing plane being classified as a criminal case under the Malaysian Penal Code, covering examination into sabotage, hijacking and acts of terrorism (Best, Richards & Hartley-Parkinson, 2014). Some publications have hyped up their reports of the missing flight by speculating what could have happened to the plane – speculations which may come across as more substantive because of the disappearance of MH370 being classified as a criminal investigation. For instance, in the online publication Mirror, speculation was reported about the possibility of American involvement in the disappearance by saying that “America could have shot down missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – and is now trying to cover it up” (Richards, 2014). These kinds of conspiracy theories are being discussed with no real evidence to back them up, as the media virtually has free range to report on the issues because important questions are not being answered by the Malaysian spin doctors. Furthermore, the Malaysian government has been criticised in the media for having a lack of transparency over the MH370 crisis. The opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim posed a question to the Malaysian government, saying: “How long does the government [] want to withhold information? Why are they afraid?… (Prime Minister) Najib Adbul Razak, please tell us” (Best, Richards & Hartley-Parkinson, 2014). This is a prime example of the opposition’s spin team working to discredit the current Malaysian government, performing their scripts perfectly to an audience of distressed families of flight MH370 as well as the international community watching the situation unfold. At an attempt to handle speculation and the flow of enquiries about the missing flight, Malaysia Airlines has had to set up communications with the public.

The PR team has been kept busy by this crisis, having to make press releases regularly and using social networking sites to communicate with the masses. This kind of communication on a massive, international scale is made more difficult by the fact that the spin doctoring team has to communicate to varying cultures and religious groups, as Malaysia is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic monarchy. Malaysia Airlines have the world watching them and waiting for responses to their unanswered questions on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. They have also had direct phone lines running for the public and the media, as well as text message alerts. It is these text messages in particular that have sparked controversy. On 24 March, Prime Minister Najib Adbul Razak informed the world that there was no chance of survival for passengers of the flight: “[it is] with deep sadness and regret I must inform you that according to [] new data flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean” (Rakyat, 2014). Just minutes before this announcement, the family members of the missing passengers were sent a text message by Malaysia Airlines to inform them of the update.

Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia’s Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean. (Petrolino, 2014, p. 2)

The text message has been criticised as being an insensitive way of informing distraught family members of their loss. Following the Prime Minister’s press conference, televisual images of grieving family members were broadcast around the world. Television, if used correctly, can be the most effective medium for steering public opinion (Louw, 2014c). It hooks in audiences by immersing them in a sense of reality that is easily absorbed, because it is such a low-involvement medium (Louw, 2014c). In this instance, however, the spin teams failed to avert the media’s attention from the grieving family members and powerful imagery was broadcast to the world that served to further damage the government’s and Malaysia Airlines’ reputations.

Mass media should be used as a form of crowd control to ensure voters in a mass democracy give their consent (Louw, 2014a). With the correct approach “consent can be manufactured” (Louw, 2010). Using the media effectively would mean that everyone involved in the Malaysian Airlines crisis – the passenger’s families, citizens of Malaysia, the public of other countries involved and international governments – would be reading from the same script and remaining sensible. This would eliminate negativity, untrusting thoughts and conspiracy theories from the agenda. Spin doctors are meant to act as handlers, working between the politicians and the media to ensure that politicians ‘stick to the script’ (Louw, 2014c). The spin doctors in this case, being Malaysian Airlines and the government of Malaysia, have failed to do this.

Journalists have an authoritative role within society, as they have the ability to “authorise certain versions of ‘reality’” through their words, speech and visuals (Louw, 2010, p. 78). In many cases, this can stand as a real threat to politicians. As mentioned, there has been a lot of negative coverage in the media about the handling of the flight MH370 crisis. Journalists have gained access to surveys by public opinion pollsters, such as Merdeka Centre, that damage the reputation and credibility of the Malaysian government in the handling of this situation. Merdeka Centre issued a survey in all states across Peninsular Malaysia. When asked if they thought that the government had been truthful or is hiding anything about missing flight MH370, a total of 54 per cent of the public answered that they believe the government is hiding something, only 26 per cent believe the government is being truthful and the remaining 20 per cent are unsure and refused to answer (Merdeka Centre, 2014). This kind of uncertainty about the credibility of the government being released to the public adds to the unsuccessful work of Malaysian Airlines and the Malaysian government spin teams. This is where a good spin doctoring team would be expected to step in to steer the ‘version of reality’ in favour of the politician. The spin doctoring team should be worried about the ‘spiral of silence’, a term that defines a situation where public opinion is effectively manufactured by public opinion pollsters (Louw, 2014b). Public opinion in these circumstances can change if people become aware of an increasing ‘unease’, such as 54 per cent of their population not trusting the government.

The PR team of Malaysia Airlines was therefore unsuccessful in it’s handling of the missing flight MH370, failing to steer public opinion in their favour. On the other hand, the royals have managed to transform their image in a positive way, having become much more likeable as evidenced by their recreation as celebrities who are constantly in the public eye. Spin doctoring is a complicated and intricate process that, without all the right elements working together, can fail to pull off a successful spin.

UN Peacekeepers vs. Spoilers

I wrote this essay for assessment in International Peacekeeping. I received a High Distinction for this assignment, so I hope you find it interesting.

Critically assess the different methods used by UN peacekeepers to deal with ‘spoilers’/warlords

Since the beginning of the post-Cold War era there has been a re-emergence of conflicts that contradict the conventional understanding of war. These intra-state conflicts are far less disciplined than inter-state conflicts in the way they are waged, with primitive and cruel acts of terror and violence becoming the norm. The actors are expansive, ranging from clans against clans to big powers in the international community that have vested interests in the continuation of a conflict, which at first glance may appear to be none of their concern. As the distinctions between these warring factions continue to blur – with organised crime, humanitarian crises, crimes against humanity, the creation of economic wealth, and war all being interconnected – the motivation for a decisive military solution to end conflicts diminishes. Rather than finding a clean-cut solution to a conflict, the parties involved now regularly prefer wartime to peacetime due to the benefits they reap. It is under these circumstances that international organisations such as the United Nation’s (UN) Peacebuilding Commission find it difficult to achieve their aims of assisting countries in the transition from violent conflict to a stable and self-sustaining peace (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 232). The actors who are left out of, or actively opposed to certain peace processes set up by the UN will be referred to as ‘spoilers’. The methods used by the UN peacekeepers to deal with these belligerents include but are not limited to inducement; peace settlement agreements and ceasefires; Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR); and sanctions. These methods used in modern conflicts will now be critically analysed.

As discussed by Stedman (1997), one of the major strategies to deal with spoilers pursued by the UN is inducement. This method aims to address any grievances a spoiler may have with the peace process. Spoilers may request that they are given protection from other warring factions, that they receive greater benefits or that their position is recognised or made to appear legitimate (Stedman 1997: 12). For instance, in the UN peacekeeping mission in Mozambique from 1993-94, rather costly demands were made by the spoilers to achieve demilitarization. The major one of these was that the RENAMO rebels would respect government authorities and renounce their use of force once they gained political power by becoming recognised as a legitimate political party (Lundin 2004: 13).  Although the peacekeepers were successful in disarming the rebels, this method of inducement should be given great consideration by the leaders within the Peacebuilding Commission before being undertaken. It can be seen as an easy and rushed decision that may not fully result in an end to violence. For instance, if the peacekeepers did decide to hand over recourses requested by a spoiler, they may have unconsciously fuelled tensions or assisted the goals of warring factions. It is not uncommon for spoilers to engage in the process of exploitation of recourses. There are cases where the already unstable environment of states at war has worsened because recourses such as oil and diamonds are exploited (Nitzschke, Heiko and Studdard 2005: 232). The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a perfect example of recourse exploitation. It is a recourse rich country, which means it has a great amount of natural wealth. Unfortunately this asset has not benefited the DRC’s economy or improved development because the recourses, such as so-called ‘blood diamonds’, have been used as a tool by spoilers to cause uncalculated human rights abuses (Global Witness 2009). It is environments such as these that the UN needs to think hard about the future effects of their decision to use inducement. Although it may be a quick-fix to resolve tensions within one spoiler group, it may cause more problems than it could settle in many complex modern conflicts.

Additionally, peace settlement agreements and ceasefires are regularly used methods by UN peacekeepers to deal with spoilers and to end conflicts. These settlements, and the whole peacekeeping process used by the UN, are ultimately based on the liberal democratic peace theory. The framework of the mission is entirely formed by this theory, regardless of the different political ideologies present in many conflict zones. Western intellectuals base the theory on the fact that liberal democratic states have never gone to war with one another, and so if the whole world was restructured into liberal democracies, there would be peace (Coetzee and Hudson 2012: 257). All UN peacekeeping missions are envisaged to include constitutional agreements as part of settlement, safeguards for human rights, democratisation processes, the free market and the rule of law. In this way, the Western community often perceives any action undertaken that implicates the prospect of a liberal peace to be an act of spoiling (Newman and Richmond 2006: 105). However, this assumption by international organisations such as the UN can be problematic because liberal values “are not necessarily universal values, or appropriate in conflicted or divided societies” (Newman and Richmond 2006: 105). There are groups who do not agree with peace processes controlled by the UN because they see the process as undermining their rights (Newman and Richmond 2006: 108). Furthermore, having rejected the liberal peace theory, these spoilers have no problem using violence, or at least threatening to do so. The method of trying to reach a peace settlement agreement was practiced by the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda during the early 1990s following the emergence of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a new Tutsi army, which rocked the brief stability enjoyed by Rwanda (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 202). President Habyarimana was pressured by the international community to sign the Arusha Accords, and by doing so, join a power-sharing agreement with the RPF. His radical Hutu opponents acted as spoilers in this case, by allegedly killing the president and performing the act of genocide against Tutsis for 100 days (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 203). It is important that the UN is aware of how their settlement ideas and peace accords are likely to conflict with those of the spoilers, especially if there is a possibility that the spoiling will be designed to destroy the negotiating process completely, as it did in the case of Rwanda (Newman and Richmond 2006: 108). The Arusha Accords were, as most UN operations are, greatly influenced by the liberal democratic peace theory, consisting of a ceasefire agreement, the inclusion of the RPF in a transitional government and a peacekeeping force was deployed to oversee and supervise the process (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 203). Obviously this was not in the interests of the Hutu spoilers because they were not involved in the process. The method of undertaking peace agreements needs to be inclusive of all view points for it to ever be a success. The liberal peace is not something that many spoilers in war torn societies would hope to achieve as it would lead to the end of a conflict that they will benefit from.

Arguably the most prominent method used by the UN peacekeepers to deal with spoilers is the post-conflict process of DDR. The process of DDR is a crucial aspect of achieving a self-sustaining peace in war-torn societies. This method works on many levels to deal with security threats that develop when ex-combatants – including legitimate (militaries) and illegitimate (warlords/spoilers) combatants – try to make the transition back to a normal life free of conflict (The United Nations 2013). This process allows an environment where peace processes and fair politics exist. The UN (2013) identifies three ways in which this method works to involve spoilers in the peace process: they remove the weapons from combatants, remove combatants from military structures and integrate combatants back into society both economically and socially. For the UN to be effective in this process, it is essential that they take socio-economic factors into account before worrying about disarming. In other words, what happens to belligerents after wartime that were involved in a conflict should be the central focus of all DDR operations. A range of income-generating and employment opportunities are necessary for spoilers to leave the conflict environment and accept the peace process (Nitzschke, Heiko and Studdard 2005: 233). This is because many spoilers have vested interests in the continuation of the conflict they are in. They may have more economic opportunities in war time through the exploitation of lucrative recourses, which would greatly influence a spoiler’s decision as to whether they should disarm voluntarily (Nitzschke, Heiko and Studdard 2005: 228). In this DDR method, it is critical that opportunities are readily available for land, education and employment to improve their quality of life and ultimately drive the decision to withdraw from the conflict. In the case of Sierra Leone DDR process, the UN faced intense security problems. The Reintegration part of the DDR process was not fully achieved because many ex-combatants were excluded from the program. This led to spoiling activities, and the migration of these fighters to diamond-rich areas where the sale of “blood diamonds” occurred (Nitzschke, Heiko and Studdard 2005: 228). This opened up a scenario where neighbouring states, the government and rebels were all fighting for control of the recourses (International Crisis Group 2006). The stakes are raised for combatants in situations like these because of the incredibly large income that natural recourse can produce. Therefore, it is even more difficult to come to an agreement to end the conflict. After challenging local groups, spoilers from Sierra Leone became a further extension of a broad-scale conflict as they became mercenaries for the Liberian war (Nitzschke, Heiko and Studdard 2005: 228). If the UN pays more attention to the social and economic situation of spoilers, they will be more effective in their attempts to disarm and demobilise the belligerents.

Another method used by the UN to deal with spoilers is the use of sanctions. This method can work well to deter actors in conflicts from continuing their violent or illicit activities (Boucher and Holt 2009: 11). By employing the use of sanctions, international organisations can monitor any threats to the peace process and forcefully bring some stability – a tense stability – to the conflict environment. In Liberia the UN was effective in improving the rule of law through the use of sanctions. Since 2001, the peacekeepers have enforced sanctions such as a weapons embargo, a timber embargo, a diamond embargo, freezing of assets and a travel ban. Under these sanctions, the UN was able to see the departure of the notorious spoiler Charles Taylor, the control of a corrupt government in the transitional political system and eventually elections in 2005 (Boucher and Holt 2009: 14). The UN Security Council is aware of the importance of their sanction committees, as well as other groups and panels dedicated to monitoring sanctions, in the fight against spoilers (The United Nations 2013). They are also aware of the need to strengthen these committees so that they become more effective in their efforts to deal with spoilers in modern conflicts. The Council identifies the need to maintain sustainable management of the natural resources in countries emerging from conflict, in order to prevent a relapse back into chaos (The United Nations 2013). While sanctions are in place in conflict environments, it is essential that the UN pays attention to strengthening the judiciary system and enforcing the law. It is common for the international community to assist in the training of police forces and the judiciary in places that have been exposed to years of corruption (Nitzschke, Heiko and Studdard. 2005: 234). In most cases where spoilers are involved, the UN peacekeepers will be required to provide a general feeling of security and ensure that crimes by spoilers do not go unnoticed.

As the world continues to face the devastating realities posed by spoilers, it is up to international organisations such as the UN to continue to develop the methods that can be used to control spoiling. Unfortunately the acts of spoilers are being supported by the current globalised war economy that allows these factions to be funded through means such as the exploitation of resources. However, the primitive acts of violence being carried out by these belligerents in modern conflict zones will not be tolerated for much longer by those in the international community who are strong adversaries for human rights. For the UN to remain a legitimate enforcer of peace they will need to think of new and improved ways to approach spoilers, negotiate and bring an end to their activities. As discussed this can be achieved through inducement, the use of more universally accepting peace agreements, DDR programs and sanctions. Ultimately, the prospect of living in peace needs to be more appealing to spoilers than that of surviving in constant conflict.

Weekly Reflections on International Peacekeeping

In 2013 I studied the subject International Peacekeeping as part of my degree. Each week we were required to answer a question in reflection of the topic discussed that week. This was a great exercise, so I thought I would share what I have learnt with you:

1. Given how much UN peacekeeping has evolved and changed since its origins in the 1950s and given the challenges it has faced ever since, do you think that ‘the UN should go back to basics’?

Based on previously failed peacekeeping missions and changes in the way war is waged, it would be unwise for the United Nations (UN) to go “back to basics” in their peacekeeping operations.

As discussed by Tharoor (1995-6: 53), it is no longer possible to simply reduce tensions between foes with a force of peacekeepers. Furthermore, the cooperation and consent of groups involved in a conflict can no longer be assumed, impartiality of the peacekeeping force can come into question, risks are high and the use of force is often necessary to bring an end to more violence (Tharoor 1995-6: 53). Traditional peacekeeping did not have the advantage of the Chapter Seven Mandate of the UN Charter, which allows the use of force. They were mainly restricted to light arms used for self defence or to deter threats (Durch 1999: 3). Among other things, it was the lack of this Chapter Seven Mandate and the false belief that the traditional methods of peacekeeping could be completely effective, that attributed to the tragic era of UN Peacekeeping in the early 1990s in Angola, Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 104).

There is no doubt that some of the basic principles of traditional peacekeeping operations should form the basis of all operations in the future, and can be applied to conflicts that it has the capacity to effectively resolve. The UN should, however, avoid past mistakes where the scope of a conflict was not properly represented, and the proper resources, “Blue Helmets” and funding were not supplied. Since the end of the Cold War the complexities of war have developed, so peacekeeping operations should develop also. Multi-dimensional forms of peacekeeping operations are now necessary to reduce tensions in conflict and also address the underlying causes (Durch 1999: 4).

Therefore, it is advised that the UN does not take a backwards step by relying on the use of traditional methods of peacekeeping for operations that are not suited to conflicts that have emerged through the changing nature of our world.

2. Imagine that there was a move to reactivate the UNSMIS (the UN mission in Syria that was ended last year) by Monday next week. You, as the head of the UN DPKO are tasked with the duty of coming with a new UN peace operation for Syria. Which of the five types of peace operations would be best suited for the current situation in Syria, and why?

After over 100,000 deaths, a huge increase in refugees and displaced persons, breaching of humanitarian law, countless human rights offenses and violence, and concern that the conflict is spilling over neighbouring borders, it is time that the UN re-activates its previous UNSMIS mission as a Peace Support Operation (PSO) in Syria to help the nation work towards a political settlement.

This type of operation will aim to convert Syria, a war-torn country, into a more liberal democratic society by the use of multifaceted missions that combine civilian components and a robust military (Kaempf 2013).

Following yet another attack on civilians by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime yesterday, where it is estimated that at least twenty people were killed in a village at Latakia, there is no end to the violence in sight (Al Jazeera 2013). The timely deployment of an armed UN force is therefore necessary to deter further violence between the al-Assad regime and the Sunni rebels so that a consensus for peace may be formed and emergency humanitarian aid may be delivered to civilians (Wilkinson 2000: 74).  The cooperation of Russia will be necessary to achieve disarmament in order to de-escalate the conflict.

After this initial UN force, a peace building and post-conflict reconciliation mission, such as a Managing Transition Operation (MSO), will be necessary until self-sustaining peace is achieved (Wilkinson 2000: 70). It will be important for the UN to be viewed as an impartial actor who is there on the basis of consent from both sides, if there is ever to be political settlement.

Strong support from the international community will be needed for the UN to be effective in its PSO mission. This war, yet another uprising of the Arab Spring, is spreading rapidly as religion becomes a dominant motive. The security of civilians is at stake not only in Syria, but neighbouring countries, as people try to seek refuge elsewhere. The international community and the UN have a duty to intervene in this crisis.

3. As we have seen, there are a number of actors conducting peace operations (ranging from the UN, regional organizations, hybrid missions [between the UN and a regional organisation], coalition of states, individual states to Private Military Companies). By taking into account the two factors of military effectiveness and legitimacy, who is – in your view – the best peacekeeping actor and why?

After taking other blogs into consideration and the factors of military effectiveness and legitimacy, I would argue that UN-authorised “coalitions of states” are the best peacekeeping actors.

The UN is globally recognised as the primary institution for authorisation and legitimacy of peace operations. However, the UN has failed to “bridge the gap between means and ends”, which is something that coalitions of states are more effective in doing because they are less influence by politics and bureaucracies (Bellamy and Williams 2005: 159). This allows them to be more flexible and achieve greater efficiency in their operations (Bellamy and Williams 2005: 169). As in the case of Australia forming a coalition in the Solomon Islands with New Zealand (NZ) and others, their peacekeeping operation (PKO) was effective because they successfully fulfilled their mandate by maintaining “a high level of operational coherence and direction” (Bellamy and Williams 2005: 188). This points to military effectiveness, as they had the ability to deploy their forces rapidly and with great efficiency. Coalitions have the benefit of a standing force, unlike the UN which is greatly limited in its ability to carry out serious military operations (Bellamy and Williams 2005: 189, Durch and Berkman 2006: 3).

The legitimacy of coalitions of states is a complicated issue, which is why I believe the best PKOs acted out by coalitions are those that have either UN-authorisation before proceeding or are viewed as legitimate and as a contributor to world peace by the UN. As discussed by Durch and Berkman (2006), those coalitions who act without UN-authorisation or approval can be seen as illegitimate because they may reflect a rejection of international law. For instance, Western states who are involved in coalitions need to be wary of accusations of a return to neo-colonialism, such as the case of Australia intervening in the Solomon Islands (Bellamy and Williams 2005: 194). In such circumstances as these, it is important that UN-authorisation or approval is achieved in order for the international community to view the PKO as legitimate. Australia’s choice to involve NZ and others in the Solomon Islands is an example of a pivotal state using the formation of a coalition to enhance their legitimacy (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 43).

To conclude, it is evident that UN-authorised coalitions of states are the best peacekeeping actors.

4. What were the issues surrounding the use of force in Somalia (UNOSOM I, UNITAF & UNOSOM II)?

There are several issues surrounding the use of force in Somalia by the United Nations (UN) – and more importantly the United States (US) who served as part of a multinational UN force.

The UNITAF force helped to bring the humanitarian aid to starving Somalis as it had the ability to implement force and protect the food vans. However, I would argue that it was the UNOSOM II mission that the use of force by US quick reaction forces came into question. This is due to their lack of impartiality in the way that their conflict resolution strategy was directed against Mohammad Aideed and his clans, and also the way in which they used force in civilian occupied areas.

When the US and the UN excluded Aideed from any future political solutions, they became another clan in the civil war, trying to take out Aideed (Kaempf 2012: 394). They always presented themselves fully armed and had rangers flying overhead which made it clear to Aideed and civilians that they were there to use the mandate they had been given, and so the ‘peacekeepers’  became  legitimate targets (Chesterman 2004: 21).

The US started to prioritise the lives of their troops over Somalis in situations such as the Abdi House Raid. This mission has been questioned because American troops did not send warning to civilians before raiding the house, which resulted in the death of 54 Somali occupants (Kaempf 2012: 398). I wonder if the Rules of Engagement (RoE) for this mission were being followed when they opened fire without giving due warning? Did the aggressor attack unexpectedly and would not have attacking led to death or injury of the US Rangers? I believe this attack – this use of force – further confirmed to Somalis that the US was there as a part of the civil war and not as an impartial actor who they could look to for protection.

I believe that incidences such as these bring the legitimacy of the UN and coalitions of the willing into question. As discussed by Goulding (2007), it is very hard to accept forceful activities taken out by an organisation whose goal is to eliminate such uses of force.

5. Analyse and discuss what you think is the ONE MAJOR cause regarding the blue helmet failures in Rwanda? 

Taking into account the opinions of others in this blog group, I would argue that there were many factors that contributed to the failure of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. The one major cause to UNAMIR’s failure was, however, the lack of political will by the international community and the UN to act against the genocidaires.

The idea of ancient ethnic hatreds as the motive of murderous Rwandans in a so called “civil war”, was effectively an excuse that drove non-intervention. The conflict was, rather, constructed through political design. Hutu power spread throughout the country and Tutsis were the target to be exterminated.

Major-General Romeo Dallaire who was in Rwanda tried to warn UN headquarters that he had received intelligence about the Hutus preparing to commit genocide against the Tutsis. However this information was never received by the Secretary-General because it was stopped along the way (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 114). It is reasonable to question whether UNAMIR could have been successful had the Security Council been informed of the real situation on the ground. But the reality was that member states were not willing to make the commitment that would have been necessary to stop the genocide. The US, more concerned with their own national interests than their duty to protect, were adamant that the UN should not intervene due to Rwanda’s return to a “civil war”, which simply was not true (Barnett 2002: 138). The US was an example of how politics ran the UN’s decisions in this case, as the US was unwilling to commit to such a high risk mission after Somalia (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 117). Furthermore, some of the international community expected to get something in return for their involvement. African states volunteered their troops on the basis that they would be given the best recourses and able to keep them when they were finished (Barnett 2002: 143).

UNAMIR was left to be a small, ill-equipped force with little support from the world outside of Rwanda, as they became a witness to the genocide.

6. Given that humanitarian assistance is an inherently political, rather than a neutral act, there should not be any issues arising from the close collaboration between peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies.  Discuss.

Close collaboration between UN peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies is conditioned by the politicisation of humanitarian assistance. The mandates given to these humanitarian actors are increasingly affected by political imperatives (Pugh 2001: 1).

One of the key issues arising from the collaboration of peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies (such as NGOs) is  the ‘preferred’ Western policy framework which is present in many peacekeeping operations (Slim 1996: 131). Both UN actors and NGOs on the ground are aware, and some-what concerned, about the reassertion of a form of sovereignty within crisis regions, as part of Western aid policy (Duffield 1997: 532). There is a feeling that, rather than taking advice from a wider representation of humanitarian agencies, the Security Council favours the advice of Western agencies (Pugh 2001: 9). This issue is important because it points to the possibility that some peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies may not be able to collaborate effectively if one feels that a policy is being forced upon the crisis region and is governing important decisions that could affect the outcome of the mission, and the prospect of achieving a stable peace.

Another issue that stems from the collaboration of these two humanitarian agencies is the opinion that NGOs can be seen as unpredictable in their actions and motives. Unlike UN agencies, they have the freedom to create their own mandates and comply with their own values and rules (Slim 1996: 128). It is this freedom and independence that is reflective of their unpredictable nature, which can be understood as being uncoordinated or a threat to the highly structured and hierarchal approach taken in UN humanitarian missions.

These are but a few issues that arise from the close collaboration between peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies in the current politicised humanitarian aid environment.

7. To what extent is R2P a sound way of resolving the tensions between notions of sovereignty and human rights protection in international society?

I believe that R2P is still in the early stages of development, but is working to resolve the tensions between notions of sovereignty and human rights protection in international society.

Since the adoption of the principle in 2005 by the United Nations (UN), there has certainly been a broad recognition of human rights standards by the international community, which is an integral part of how we will come to value sovereignty in the future. This new idea of “sovereignty as responsibility” is far more centred on the right of people to overthrow their sovereignty if their rights are not being heard. Sovereignty is also much more valued in places where assistance from the international community is welcomed.

There are still tensions evident between the notions of sovereignty and human rights protection though. There is the consistent argument that assistance from the international community can do more harm than good if undertaken by particular actors who have their own vested interests in the war (Weiss 2004: 142).  Acts such as these tend not to enhance the sovereignty of the warring nation because “invading” countries become more concerned with obsessive protection of humans and in doing so ignore the borders of the state they are entering (Weiss 2004: 142). Furthermore, if the scope of what dictates R2P intervention does not stay narrow, member states warn that the doctrine could become even more of a justification for states to interfere unnecessarily, thus infringing on the sovereignty of weak states (Luck 2008: 5).

To conclude, as I believe that R2P is still in the developing stages, and still needs to be fully accepted by some of the international community, the tensions between notions of sovereignty and human rights protection are yet to be fully resolved.

8. Are today’s transitional administrations a new form of imperialism? Why or why not?

In pursuit of finding a solution to civil wars experienced by several countries in recent years, international peacekeepers have used methods based upon liberal ideology to transform war-torn states (Paris 2002: 637). Therefore, I would agree that today’s transitional administrations are a new form of imperialism.

During the Enlightenment – when so-called ‘underdeveloped’ people were considered inferior – the ideas of a market economy and democracy were associated with ‘liberal peace’ (Hoffman 2009: 10). The needs and wants of various states were not considered by major world leaders. This concept has re-emerged. For instance, leaders in peacebuilding such as the UN, have reinforced the behaviours of the “Western-liberal core of the international system to the failed states of the periphery” (Paris 2002: 637). This action has reinforced the idea that the core (ie. Those powerful states experiencing ‘liberal peace’) define the standards of how to behave, and that they are superior to anyone (particularly third world countries) who do not follow those standards.

Furthermore, instances of peacebuilding where liberal institutions and states have stepped in to assist with such things as liberal democratic elections, have in many cases been less beneficial to the failing state. Exercises such as this can be perceived by the disadvantaged state to be an attempt to make them dependent upon the West (Hoffman 2009: 11). In circumstances such as these, the pursuit of liberal peace in third world countries can be perceived us a cover for the West’s economic and political interests (Hoffman 2009: 11). This adds to the argument made by Ayoob (2004), that the West also promotes the obstruction of certain humanitarian actions that do not suit their interests. A perfect example of this would be the international intervention (or lack thereof) in Rwanda.

To conclude, the act of enforcing a ‘liberal peace’ on war-torn states reverts back to imperialistic views. Methods used by peacekeepers in this regard do not account for a universal worldview, but rather reinforce a bifurcated world view.

9. Private Military and Security Companies make better peacekeepers! Why/why not?

The privatisation of violence has increased in recent decades. This has led to a more significant role being played by Private Military and Security Companies (PMCs or PSCs) in peace operations. However, I would argue that the United Nations (UN) makes better peacekeepers than PMCs.

Financial benefits of entering conflict zones tend to be good for PMCs, often outweighing the primary goal of protecting innocents. As discussed by Singer (2001-02), PMCs may not always put the interests of their client before their own, due to their desire to maximise profit. By cutting corners, they can increase profits (Singer 2001-02: 205). Because PMC operations are influenced by market forces, they cannot rely on institutional strengths experienced by such organisations as the UN when a mission fails (Spearin 2001: 28).

Furthermore, PMCs do not hold the same kind of legitimacy as the UN. Privatised groups are not required to stand by international laws used by the UN and other international organisations in their peacekeeping missions (Singer 2001-02: 205). With no punishment for war crimes, PMCs have the ability to defect and also to wage war by their own rules. Many of the fighters recruited for military activities by PMCs are likely to find gratification in conflict (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 330).

The UN holds the main responsibility for peacekeeping, and is seen as legitimate because it complies with international laws. It could enhance its effectiveness by employing PMCs in emergencies on those occasions, such as the Rwandan genocide, where they have failed to provide the necessary assistance (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 333). However, if the UN was to become too dependent on PMCs they would run the risk of losing their legitimacy. By deploying private troops, the message you send is that “this is important, but not important enough to risk our own people” (Bellamy and Williams 2012: 329). Until PMCs follow some kind of judicial structure, they should be considered a band aid in the complex process of conflict resolution.

Politicisation of Humanitarian Aid: Peacekeepers vs. Humanitarian Agencies

Close collaboration between United Nations (UN) peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies is conditioned by the politicisation of humanitarian assistance. The mandates given to these humanitarian actors are increasingly affected by political imperatives (Pugh 2001: 1).

One of the key issues arising from the collaboration of peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies (such as NGOs) is  the ‘preferred’ Western policy framework which is present in many peacekeeping operations (Slim 1996: 131). Both UN actors and NGOs on the ground are aware, and some-what concerned, about the reassertion of a form of sovereignty within crisis regions, as part of Western aid policy (Duffield 1997: 532). There is a feeling that, rather than taking advice from a wider representation of humanitarian agencies, the Security Council favours the advice of Western agencies (Pugh 2001: 9). This issue is important because it points to the possibility that some peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies may not be able to collaborate effectively if one feels that a policy is being forced upon the crisis region and is governing important decisions that could affect the outcome of the mission, and the prospect of achieving a stable peace.

Another issue that stems from the collaboration of these two humanitarian agencies is the opinion that NGOs can be seen as unpredictable in their actions and motives. Unlike UN agencies, they have the freedom to create their own mandates and comply with their own values and rules (Slim 1996: 128). It is this freedom and independence that is reflective of their unpredictable nature, which can be understood as being uncoordinated or a threat to the highly structured and hierarchal approach taken in UN humanitarian missions.

These are but a few issues that arise from the close collaboration between peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies in the current politicised humanitarian aid environment.

The Responsibility to Protect

What are the key implications of the international adoption of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ principle?

In 2001 the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), commissioned by the Canadian government, studied the relationship between human rights and sovereignty. The report further discussed debates about the so-called changing nature of sovereignty, suggested by Francis Deng, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s special representative on internally displaced people in 1992 (Bellamy 2012: 490). Deng and the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan coined the term ‘sovereignty as responsibility’, which meant that legitimate sovereignty of a nation state should “[entail] responsibilities as well as rights” (Bellamy 2012: 490-491). It was in the ICISS report that the term ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) was first used and was developed to a principle that the UN adopted at the World Summit in 2005 (Bellamy 2012: 492). The concept would be applied to states who failed to protect their civilians from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (The United Nations 2013: 3). As R2P develops in theory and enforcement, it appears to be reframing International Relations through a more liberal cosmopolitan lens, with older ideas of the state and sovereignty being replaced by concerns for the individual. Key implications of this change will be discussed under the three pillars of the R2P strategy after a brief background on the development of R2P is provided.

Background on R2P:

The 20th century was marred by horrific events such as the Holocaust in World War II and the failure of UN peacekeepers in Somalia, the Rwandan genocide and in Srebrenica (Ban Ki-Moon 2009: 5). In regards to the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s, the UN has been criticised time and time again for their disregard of the warning signs of these atrocities and for not taking appropriate action to assist in the resolution of conflict. In particular, an Independent Inquiry into the actions of the UN during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was commissioned and a report was released from this inquiry, which stated that the “United Nations failed the people of Rwanda during the genocide” (Independent Inquiry 1999: 51). Events such as the Rwandan genocide spoke to the failure of states to protect their own civilians and to the failure of the International community to intervene effectively or efficiently. Following decades of mass atrocities and tragic events in war, the end of the 20th century saw a growing global awareness of human suffering and therefore the importance of universal human rights (Dunne 2013). The UN, with their credibility and legitimacy doubted by the international community, was left to question whether the understanding of what it meant to be a sovereign state during this era had created an excuse for states to commit “mass violence [that] could be inflicted on populations with impunity” (Ban Ki Moon 2009: 5). The former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and other world leaders were led to reconsider their focus on the security of states to the security of the people within them. They did this by redefining sovereignty to ‘sovereignty as a responsibility’, with the help of Francis Deng (Bellamy 2012: 490). This changing idea of sovereignty meant that states would face less ‘unwelcome’ intervention by the international community if they met their obligation to provide basic human rights and protection to their civilians. The ICISS report released in 2001 furthered the discussion around the changing nature of sovereignty, as mentioned previously, and coined the term ‘Responsibility to Protect’. The report identified that states have a ‘responsibility to prevent’, a ‘responsibility to react’ and a ‘responsibility to rebuild’ and drew attention to the benefits of prevention when States are encouraged to meet their basic responsibilities to protect their people (ICISS 2001: XI). This report, and another report by the former Secretary-General, was used as material in the 2005 World Summit where the principle of R2P was officially adopted and can now be defined under paragraphs 138 and 139 of the Summit Outcome. The principle rests on the following three pillars.

Key Implications of R2P under the Three Pillars:

Pillar One:

The UN defines pillar one of the strategies for implementing R2P as: “the State [holding] primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement”(Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide 2013).

The key implication under this pillar is that it shows the international community’s adoption of a new understanding of sovereignty.  Before this change, the more realist interpretations of International Relations viewed sovereignty of a state as something that other states should have no influence over – as ‘unconditional sovereignty’.  Violation of the “territorial integrity of another state” was considered to be prohibited (Bellamy 2011: 10). It was this thought process that proved to be the main obstacle for humanitarian intervention in the 1990s, as there was still debate about whether the international community had the right to intervene for humanitarian purposes. There was a lot of “anachronistic language [surrounding] humanitarian intervention” in the 1990s which made it difficult for the UN to employ peacekeepers effectively on the basis of humanitarian intervention (Weiss 2012: 434). This was the case in Rwanda where there was a continual lack of political will by Member States to act. The response to this crisis by the UN Secretariat and the Security Council was poorly affected by this lack of political will, and made it difficult to recruit the number of troops that were needed by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) to prevent the mass killing of Tutsis by the Hutu population in Rwanda (Independent Inquiry 1999: 3).

After this huge failure of both the international community and the UN to intervene effectively in the 1990s, experts sought to move away from the use of the term ‘humanitarian intervention’ and to consider the protection of individuals within states more, to avoid ‘another Rwanda’. The former Secretary-General Kofi Annan was published in the Economist magazine in 1999 and explained that “States are now widely understood to be servants at the service of their people, not vice-versa”(Economist 1999). The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ principle has endorsed the new understanding of sovereignty where states are responsible to protect their own citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. If states fail to protect their citizens from these four criteria, then their right to sovereignty will be forfeited and the international community has an obligation to intervene.

Pillar Two:

The UN defines pillar two of the strategy for implementing R2P as: “the international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling

[the] responsibility” outlined in pillar one (Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide 2013).

The key implication and concern under this pillar of R2P is that States may misuse their right to intervention or not intervene at all if the consequences for doing so could be more detrimental to them than not, even though they are technically obligated to intervene according to R2P. Intervention may result in a wider conflict being formed and the consent of any local actors who could assist in coming to a peace agreement may be put at risk (Bellamy 2011: 3). With no real consequences for not intervening, governments worldwide will be hesitant to “prioritize the prevention and halting of mass killing and commit resources to this goal” (Bellamy 2011: 2). Uncertainty is something that will continue to make the international community hesitant to comply with their responsibility to protect civilians. Without their own interests at heart, it could be argued that there will continue to be reluctance among some of the international community to commit themselves to intervention. Alternatively, as the individual continues to become more important in International Relations and as the notion of R2P continues to develop, States may become more willing to contribute their recourses into intervention for less ‘selfish’ reasons.

In 2011 the international community effectively intervened in Libya, making it one of the most recent and significant uses of R2P so far (Bellamy 2012: 499). The risk that the state of Libya would fail to protect its own civilians had already been detected by the UN Joint Office for Genocide Prevention and R2P, and the use of force was adopted under Resolution 1973 (Bellamy 2012: 499). Demonstrations associated with the ‘Arab Spring’ protests began to turn violent as rebels fought back against Qaddafi’s government and regime (Bellamy 2012: 499). The Security Council and the international community identified “the gross and systematic violation of human rights” (The United Nations 2013: 2). The United States (US), China and Russia, as part of the permanent five members of the Security Council, were persuaded to support stronger action in Libya after the League of Arab States appealed to the UN Security Council “to impose immediately a no-fly zone on Libya military aviation, and to establish safe areas in places exposed to shelling” (Bellamy 2012: 500). The Council allowed Member States to use “all necessary measures” to protect the endangered civilians (The United Nations 2013: 2). The ability of the international community to react so quickly and to intervene for the protection of human rights is a sign that R2P is really developing in its implementation. However, it is claimed that the authorisation provided by the Security Council to “protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack” was interpreted differently by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and other allies (Bellamy 2012: 501). Some states, such as Russia and China, argued that some of the military activities carried out by NATO did not comply with the mandate (Bellamy 2012: 501). At this stage, without any consequences for such noncompliance with mandates authorised by the UN, even though they may have been effective to the overall scheme of things, R2P may continue to face problems in regards to international intervention.

Pillar Three:

Pillar three of the strategy for implementing R2P can be defined as: “The responsibility of the United Nations Member States to respond in a timely and decisive manner, in accordance with the UN Charter, when a state is manifestly failing to provide such protection” (Dunne 2013).

This third pillar is the most debated of the three because of its lack of clarity and because of the exclusive authority it gives to the Security Council to authorise intervention. The US and England both wanted unauthorised intervention in R2P to remain on the cards, however some countries were against this as they wanted Western interventionism to be limited for fear that Western interference would become legitimised (Bellamy 2011: 22). It was most notably India that publicly expressed this opinion, although it represented a “significant underlying concern in many parts of the world” (Bellamy 2011: 22). The power of the Member States to decide when it is the right time to intervene and to define what constitutes intervention is also contested. Until the systems for predicting conflict are fully developed, how far will conflicts be left until it is the ‘right time’ to intervene? The Security Council currently has the authority to intervene whenever it deems it appropriate to do so, which may not always be correct as they may prioritise their recourses. Despite this concern, the UN is still regarded as the most “appropriate body to safeguard international peace and security” by many developing states (Pugh 2012:  404). Further thought needs to be put into clarifying the scope of military and civilians that are needed to bring about a ‘timely and decisive response’ to the prevention and halting of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity (Madariaga College of Europe Foundation 2012).

The use of the third pillar remains questionable in the case of Syria, where the state is in complete chaos and failing to provide protection to its civilians. The international community has been put under the spotlight having been accused of failing to intervene earlier and failing their responsibility to protect civilians. The “widespread and systematic” human rights violations in Syria have been condemned by the Human Rights Council and General Assembly (The United Nations 2013: 3). The Security Council has been unable to even agree on sanctions against the Assad regime or an arms embargo (Muraina 2013). Despite their awareness of a humanitarian crisis, the Council “remains deadlocked and ineffective in the crisis” as Russia and China refuse to cooperate (Williams, Ulbrick and Worboys 2012). The UN needs to refer back to Just War Theory and decide whether intervention with military force would be justifiable (Beauchamp 2012). At this late stage in the conflict, military involvement might cause more of a security threat to the civilians than they are already experiencing (Beauchamp 2012). The Council should come to a common agreement to form their R2P campaign in Syria around hurting the Assad regime non-violently. A very cautious approach will be required to dealing with this conflict, as the deterioration of Syria will be detrimental for Lebanon, Iran, Jordon and possibly Iraq and Israel as well (Talk of the Nation 2012). If Member States choose to intervene with a military force they run the risk of a failed intervention, which will bring the failings of humanitarian intervention during the 1990s to light. This could ruin the international legitimacy of R2P and its ability to become a framework for understanding the idea of sovereignty as a responsibility. In his fourth report on R2P which referred to the concept of ‘timely and decisive response’ under the third pillar, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the “Council’s paralysis does the Syrian people harm” and that there was fear that R2P was failing on its vow to avoid ‘another Rwanda’ (Targeted News Services 2012). The power of the Member States to ultimately control intervention and when intervention should occur has proven to be difficult in the case of Syria. Concern for the protection of individuals within this state will need to override other concerns of the Member States so that appropriate action can be taken to weaken the Assad regime before it is too late. This crisis is indicative of the developing nature of R2P and its status as an ‘emerging’ norm.

To conclude, implementing R2P to prevent or halt atrocities with decisive action is proving to be a difficult process. However, as early warning signs become easier for the international community to predict and the UN develops the proper capacity to respond successfully, the effectiveness and legitimacy of R2P will continue to develop. Unfortunately at this early stage, there are lot of holes in the principle that could lead to misinterpretation of mandates, such as the case of NATO intervention in Libya, or worse. It could be argued that R2P will remain a ‘loosely based principle’ rather than a ‘norm’ for realists until it plays a major part in designing foreign policy (Stollet: 2010). The majority of the international community is starting to view International Relations through a more liberal cosmopolitan lens thanks to the idea of ‘sovereignty as responsibility’ which has been adopted by many States in their commitment to R2P. Although awareness of individual human rights has been greatly improved, there will need to be continued discussion and reconfiguring of the R2P principle so that it becomes habitual for the whole of the international community to prioritise their responsibility to protect civilians under threat of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

 The Sherlock Fandom

How has the interactive nature of the Internet in popular culture propelled the fandom around the BBC’s television series Sherlock?

The original stories about the detective character Sherlock Holmes were written by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle and first published in 1887 in small magazine serials, and were later published as novels (Porter, 2012). Since then, the original stories have never stopped being printed and several adaptations of these stories and the Sherlock Holmes character have been published by various types of official media, as well as by dedicated fans. The fans consume, produce, read, write, observe and participate as active audiences who are trying to make meaning of the stories (Lewis, 2002). The 21st century in particular has seen an increase in the Sherlock Holmes fandom, due to the interactive element of fandom through the use of the Internet. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is one of many media professionals who have created a modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s original stories. Their television series Sherlock is arguably one of the most successful adaptations of the story in our popular culture and has a huge fan base that can interact and produce media internationally thanks to the Internet.

The BBC’s Sherlock has been running since 2010 and has been a huge success in Britain and the wider international community (Porter, 2012). The show is set in modern, 21st century London and is centred on the adventurous lives of the crime-solving detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his ‘sidekick’ John Watson (Porter, 2012). Of all the recent adaptations of Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s stories, Sherlock is the most faithful to the original depiction of the character Sherlock Holmes, despite the character’s modern technological expertise in the BBC’s series. The BBC’s Sherlock, like many other adaptations, has furthered the detective’s story according to their own modern agendas and interests (Porter, 2012). It is Holmes’ place in classic British literature and now in interactive popular culture that is responsible for his boost in popularity (Porter, 2012). There are power relationships that exist between the commercial elites such as the BBC and the Sherlock fandom that reflect each others’ interests in a system of meaning making (Carah, 2013). A kind of cultural hegemony is formed as the ‘ordinary people’ of the Sherlock fandom interact with the commercial elites (Carah, 2013). The fans’ ideas about the series are broadcasted all over the internet and in print, and are monitored by the people making the show (Andrejevic, 2007). As the scope of the internet increases, the fan base for Sherlock is on the rise and so too is their involvement in the story of Sherlock Holmes. As the series Sherlock is set in modern London, it is more relatable to fans’ understanding of everyday life and reflects certain identities that they might aspire to be (Carah ,2013). As the viewers of the series continue to identify with the setting, people and values represented in the show, they are “more likely [] to accept the version of the world the narrative constructs and the values () it thereby promotes” (Bullen, 2009).  Consequently, there are now many thousands of viewers who genuinely care about how the show develops (Andrejevic, 2007). The link between fandom and popular culture is becoming more obvious as fans become a part of a hierarchical social system where the license to actually effect change in the television series is accorded only to the few (Lewis, 2002). However, fans are aware of this system and do not fall for the promise that the interactivity of the Internet will ultimately change the power relations between the consumers (fans) and the BBC producers (Andrejevic, 2007). But this awareness will not stop them interacting on social networks. Although the viewers’ power is limited, they will continue their ability as an audience to interpret messages and discuss meanings about the show rather than expect to be able to control the content of the show (Costello & Moore, 2007). 

A key characteristic of fandom is that it creates an alternative social community who share a common sense of identity and interests through their communication about certain texts, such as Sherlock (Lewis, 2002). This social community is more accepting of individual differences and particular interests than the community of ‘non-fans’ (Lewis, 2002). The participants in fandom are not a normal group of social friends, they are people all over the world who share a common interest in a program or text and have a desire to discuss it via the Internet. The Sherlock fandom represents a real interpretive community “where people discuss their delight and disgust at plotlines, dialogue and character developments” (Costello & Moore, 2007). This community works as a system that implements certain ideas about BBC’s program by managing several niches and interests about the show (Carah, 2013). The interactivity of the Internet works here as a social practice that fans participate in to construct the social world of Sherlock fandom. As fans interact, the networks they use and the fandom itself responds. There is a whole infrastructure on the Internet created for fans and also particularly for the Sherlock Holmes fandom. There are numerous fan websites, fan fiction websites, blogs, Twitter accounts and even Facebook pages that are dedicated to interactive discussion about Sherlock. For some viewers, such as fans, to simply watch the show is not ‘enjoyable’ enough, and interaction about the show on networks, such as the ones just mentioned, enhance the viewing experience (Costello & Moore, 2007). As fans relate to television shows and continue to view the programs, they often get attached to characters. If a fan’s favourite program is cancelled or a character is ‘killed off’, a truly committed fan will be emotional as they have watched the program for a long time and will have therefore become attached. The interactive community of online fans experience these same feelings. It makes it easier for fans to withdraw from grief of the fictional world with the support of others (Costello & Moore, 2007). There has been an extremely long break (for a modern television program) since the end of the second season of Sherlock, having aired in early 2012. The last episode was a ‘cliff hanger’ for enthusiastic fans who watched their favourite crime-solving detective fake his own death after the villain, Moriarty, tried to discredit and kill the adored character of Sherlock Holmes (McAlpine, 2013). There has been a great deal of hype in the build up to the third season of Sherlock, and the fan’s faith in their favourite character, and belief that Moriarty was a ‘liar’, has prevailed (McAlpine, 2013). Although Holmes died in the last episode of season two, he lives on in the online community around the world. Fans have joined together on Tumblr, Facebook and several other social networks and websites that ultimately control the flow of information about Holmes’ death, and legitimise themselves by promising fans that their voices will be heard as they are published for the world to see on the Internet. The experience of watching Sherlock will have been improved as viewers continue to participate in this interactive culture (Andrejevic, 2007).

Additionally, the interactive nature of the Internet has helped to propel the Sherlock fandom through the use of branding. Brands are functioning in the interactive and networked online community of the fandom. These brands are designed to solve a particular kind of problem and form social processes (Carah, 2013). In the case of the BBC’s television series, a fan-created viral campaign has been launched since the end of the second season. On 16 January 2012 the ‘#BelieveInSherlock’ movement was launched by a now famous blogger who goes by the name of Earl Foolish (Foolish, 2012). The movement was designed to keep the fans’ faith in the legitimacy of Holmes alive after he was discredited by Moriarty in the show. The blogger instructed the online community to believe in Sherlock Holmes:

Let’s scribble on cubicle doors, back of bus seats, lamp posts. I won’t tell anyone to do anything illegal, but graffiti like in the pictures would be amazing. Paint on t-shirts, make buttons, go to the beach and write in the sand. Take photos of what you’ve done, put on Twitter or Tumblr and tag it! (Foolish, 2012).

The movement spread rapidly and is now recognised and referred to by fans internationally. The ‘#BelieveInSherlock’ hash tag and phrase has become a brand in itself which represents the movement of passionate Sherlock fans over broad distances. The brand can be seen all over the Internet, but also in London and in other parts of the world in forms of graffiti and street art (Murphy, 2012). Some phrases that are spray painted and written in public, as well as on the Internet, include “Richard Brook is a fake”, “Moriarty is real”, “I believe in Sherlock Holmes” and “Don’t believe the lies” (Foolish, 2012). The hash tag has become valuable as a brand to fans because it incorporates their own values, meanings and interests in regards to Sherlock Holmes. Foolish describes the character as an “inspiration for all [fans] to be more observant in [their] everyday lives” (Foolish, 2012). It encourages the participation of the Sherlock fandom and relies on their creativity to exist (Carah, 2013). The Internet has enabled fan communities to have “unified centres of resistance”, in comparison to Sherlock Holmes fandom that existed before the Internet which was “largely decentralized and [inhibited] the collective [] power of individuals and geographically dispersed fan consortiums” (Costello & Moore, 2007). In his broadcast to the public blogosphere, Foolish identified digital media as a new chapter in the Sherlock Holmes fandom (Foolish, 2012). He described it as something that is unique to this era of the fandom (Foolish, 2012). Along with fan fiction websites and blogs that promote a faith in BBC’s Sherlock Holmes character, there are also websites that sell fan merchandise that advertise the ‘#BelieveInSherlock’ brand and movement. Redbubble is an online store that sells a variety of custom made products related to Sherlock, including t-shirts, art, drawing, illustrations, design, photography and gifts (Redbubble Pty. Ltd., 2013). The fandom’s movement is all over YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and numerous other websites. With the use of the Internet, the activities of the fandom have spread from just being a viral campaign to taking this fictional story into the real world. This has further inserted the Sherlock brand into our popular culture and our lives.

To conclude, modernisation has had a huge impact on the fandom of the recent stories about Sherlock Holmes, that were originally developed over a century ago by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle. The fandom movement of the BBC’s Sherlock has illustrated the power of ‘the people’ on the Internet to interact with each other in an active way. Although fans are aware that they do not necessarily have control of the content of the Sherlock series, they do take advantage of their ability to participate in interpreting meanings about the Sherlock Holmes stories, such as their reaction to his death in the second season.  Their effective interactivity has even created a brand that is recognisable as part of the Sherlock fandom. This has extended the effect of the program from the fictional world into our real world and has therefore propelled the Sherlock fandom in such a way that it never could have before the interactive nature of the Internet was developed.

Popular Culture and Branding

This essay will use the television show, Breaking Bad, as a case study to examine what role popular culture plays in making and managing power relationships, identities and everyday life. It will then use music festivals as a case study, in particular the Splendour in the Grass festival, to discuss how brands are created and managed in a networked, interactive and participatory popular culture.

 What role does popular culture play in making and managing power relationships, identities and everyday life?

Popular culture or the “culture of the people”, moulds our understanding of identities and everyday life as much as it reflects them (Carah, 2013). It is useful in making and managing power relationships. A form of popular culture which directly attempts to present various power relations is the “quality dramas” that have been aired profusely over the past decade on television (Carah, 2013). An educated middle class audience is identified by producers who draw critical attention to the shape of the neoliberal and networked society. As discussed by Ouellette and Hay (2008), in the neoliberal society “citizens are [now] called upon to play an active role in caring for and governing themselves through a burgeoning culture of entrepreneurship”. Viewers of “quality dramas” can relate to characters because they are designed to directly critique such broader social formations and power relations that stem from a neoliberal society. The futility of individuals on the shows, of “ordinary people”, who struggle against the system, appeals to the audience. The television series Breaking Bad is a perfect example of a “quality drama”.

Power relations of class and masculinity are present in Breaking Bad. The show brings together the educated middle-class society of America and the low socio-economic society where involvement with drugs is common. By doing this, the show highlights the “polarization of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’” in America since 1984 (Peck, 2010). The main character, Walter (Walt) White, is portrayed as an average American, middle-class citizen at the beginning of the show, living the “American Dream”. Walt works as a high school chemistry teacher, part-time car wash employee, has a modern home, is father to two children and has a wife. However, we discover early on that Walt has advanced lung cancer and does not have the funds or healthcare support to pay for his treatment or to care for his family in the future if he were to die, alluding to problems with the American healthcare system (Olmstead, 2012). The show is about the “decent of man” when someone like Walt tries to “break bad” from a society that has marginalized him and an economy that has moved on without him (Koepsell & Arp, 2012). The show introduces Walt to the low socio-economic society when Walt follows an unorthodox path in an attempt to accumulate enough money to support his family in the future. Walt is introduced to a lawless world where he is in regular contact with drug dealers, “addicts” and violence. He willingly delves deep into a kind of dark underworld where the pursuit of crime diminishes his morality and the values he held as a member of the middle-class society (Koepsell & Arp, 2012). Breaking Bad also features masculinity as an example of power relations. We see the most powerful characters in the show are male and this power is somehow linked to the “drug world”. Walt’s masculinity increases in the show as he moves away from being the average American citizen, and moves closer to the criminal society where he can move up the ladder and gain more power and control. Gus Fring provides another example of the dispersion of power, particularly in seasons two to four. He is one of the largest drug distributors in the American Southwest, while at the same time having a public face as an important businessman and community leader (Olmstead, 2012). He initially has power over Walt, but as Walt’s senseless and reckless craving for power and control increases, we see Walt shift their relationship of power conversely. This “achievement” is arguably the most prominent demonstration of Walt’s masculinity on the show so far.

Popular culture plays a big role in constructing and reflecting identity in our everyday lives (Carah, 2013). Breaking Bad works directly as a cultural resource to engage us in making sense of our world. It highlights identities and relations with others that we can relate to. The show could be viewed and interpreted from several different angles depending on the experiences the audience have had and how they see the television series as reflecting their identity and social world (Carah, 2013). It may also allow them to act out specific identities that they may see as empowering. For example, in Breaking Bad, Walter White’s character could relate to many of the educated middle-class viewers who watch the show. He is an average citizen, battling with the same problems that many Americans and others are faced with daily. Normally, the actions he took to overcome his financial situation would seem morally impossible for the average citizen. However, the audience sympathises with his situation, sharing in his experience with their own healthcare and a similar lack of faith in the neoliberal system (Koepsell & Arp, 2012). Although “ordinary people” can relate their identity with the identity represented in Walter White, they cannot see themselves “breaking bad” from the lawful, careful lives they have always lived. Walt’s character empowers the viewer as they root for his success which is achieved in ways they could never imagine doing (Koepsell & Arp, 2012). He becomes kind of an “anti-hero” for the viewer as he battles in questionable ways against recessionary times and arcane institutions (Koepsell & Arp, 2012). We have to wonder what this says about the popular culture society we live in and the degree of happiness we have with our everyday lives. Perhaps this show and the identity it expresses through Walt appeals to the anarchy inside us all. Not unlike brands, popular culture is watching and responding to our meaning making activities and is setting up social contexts and making messages for us to think about (Carah, 2013).

How are brands created and managed in a networked, interactive and participatory popular culture?

Brands are defined by Hearn (2008) as a “distinct form of marketing practice intended to link products and services with resonant cultural meaning through the use of narratives and images”. Brands should not just be thought of as advertisements, but as social processes (Carah, 2013). Brands encourage our active participation in meaning making and rely heavily on our creativity, identities, freedom and social connections. They don’t just tell us what to think, but they also manage our social spaces where we interact with each other (Carah, 2013). By doing this they are able to watch and respond to our meaning making activities. The music festival Splendour in the Grass will be used as an example of how brands are created and managed in a networked, interactive and participatory popular culture.

Like many music festivals in the past decade, the “mosh pit” at Splendour in the Grass is now filled with smart phone screens that are photographing the audiences’ favourite band or musician. The festival is a place of enjoyment where people can listen to the music they like and by doing so they express themselves and their identity. The smart phone has become a way for festival-goers to mediate those experiences (Carah, 2013). The images and videos that are taken on smart phones at festivals are now regularly uploaded to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They do not just remain on the smart phones, but are circulated via these social media sites by commenting, liking, sharing and tagging. This process has created a social network that not only festival-goers interact with, but their friends, family, friends-of-friends and even strangers. The images that are uploaded onto the web are not just conveying the message that you are at the festival with your friends, but that you all “share a kind of mutual image around the musician” (Carah, 2013). Splendour in the Grass is considered and represented on Facebook and to the wider festival community as a festival for “indie” people. This culture is represented in every picture or post that is uploaded about Splendour in the Grass. The images don’t just convey meanings about the type of festival this is and the type of people that attend, but are also central to creating social networks that form on Facebook that prompt us to participate in interaction with each other about the festival. Attendees that create media about Splendour in the Grass via their smart phones are not just central to how the social network on Facebook works, but also to how brands work (Carah, 2013).

Brands have learnt to incorporate themselves in the social networks that have formed around festivals. Every image that is posted about Splendour in the Grass has the potential to increase the value of a brand. Photographers and consumers are laboring for the brand. As music festivals are locked off and everything you need is inside the festival grounds, brands have a space where they can actively and productively build their brand. Festivals like Splendour in the Grass are a place where people only go because they like the music and the “indie” atmosphere, so brands are able to capitalise on this unique, captive market and know exactly what their target audience wants. Brands can become part of the identity and enjoyment of a music festival and in doing so; boost their value as a brand. Furthermore, people that attend the festival will often have an affective emotional attachment to it – they will experience nostalgia for the festival – and the brand can utiltise these good will feelings by becoming part of those memories as well (Carah, 2013). Alcohol brands such as Smirnoff are a perfect example of products that will be associated with the audience’s memories of having a great time at the festival and wanting to return. Advertisers are targeting a young, fun-loving audience who enjoy the drinking culture at Splendour in the Grass.

The drinking culture at Splendour in the Grass is a more concrete “sense of taste” of the demographic group that brands can capitalize on (Carah, 2013). By following our social networks and senses of taste, brands are using a kind of advertising method that is considered “below-the-line”. According to Moor (2003), “the recession of the early 1990s [] forced potential advertising clients to [] opt for cheaper ‘below-the-line’ options”. Facebook is an example of a “below –the-line” advertising method where alcohol brands can now say things they could never have said before in more mainstream forms of advertising (Carah, 2013). The way Splendour in the Grass presents itself on Facebook registers many cultural meanings about alcohol consumption that sit below the line of what regulators can see and control (Carah, 2013). The smart phone has become central to audiences circulating cultural meanings about alcohol at festivals and has in turn become an essential and relied upon commodity for brands to circulate.

Popular culture, in particular music festivals such as Splendour in the Grass, has had a significant effect on the way advertisers promote their brands by using social networks and our active participation and interaction between each other on Facebook and other platforms of social media. The effect popular culture has had in making and managing power relationships, identities and everyday life was shown using Breaking Bad as an example of the “quality dramas” that have formed in television over the past decade.

Channel Seven’s Sunrise, the Queensland Government and Operation Bounce Back

On 18 January 2011, the Sunrise program on Channel Seven launched a campaign in collaboration with the Queensland Government to bring skilled tradespeople to the flood zones in Queensland as part of the recovery effort after the floods. The campaign was named Operation Bounce Back. This essay will analyse what this campaign helps us to understand about media representations, rituals and professional communicators. As a Sunrise producer, the reasons for being involved with Operation Bounce Back will be discussed. The campaign’s success as a way of producing representations of crisis events will be evaluated.

Representation can be defined as the social process of making and exchanging media (Carah, 2013). It is the production of meaning through language (Hall, 1997). The media uses language to say meaningful things about the world or to represent the world meaningfully, to other people – it’s audience (Hall, 1997). By doing this, the media is able to “mediate” how we understand the world and how we go about our lives (Carah, 2013). As a form of media, Sunrise was able to mediate how the public viewed the flood crisis and the process of recovery. Continual social interactions between people are what make and maintain representations (Carah, 2013). This is why Sunrise is such an effective form of media, because it is able to easily create representations through its many forms of social interaction, such as its capacity to provide interactive forms of media through web and mobile facilities.

In societies that are deeply involved with the media, the construction of representation is organised in routine interactions between cultural producers (Carah, 2013). These routine interactions are rituals embedded within power relationships and institutional sites (Carah, 2013). Representations subtly frame events in society in ways that position individuals in the social order (Carah, 2013). Representation is therefore fundamental to creating and maintaining power relationships. Sunrise makes its mark as a powerful media producer because it has a powerful relationship with the Queensland Government in crisis events, which is shown in the Operation Bounce Back campaign. Representations were delivered with ease because Sunrise’s information was considered to be legitimate with the reassuring involvement of the government.

On the morning of 18 January 2011, the Sunrise host “Kochie” interviewed Premier Anna Bligh about the flood recovery process. Both Kochie and the Premier are professional communicators. In the interview they stipulated that the recovery of the Queensland flood-affected community was the “next big step” and that a massive cleanup was already under way. Homes would need complete rebuilding now that the crisis was over. The Premier said that they would “need a massive rebuilding exercise” and that they – the government – were “looking for Tradies”. Kochie reminded the Premier of when they had assisted in the recovery after Cyclone Larry with a campaign for help from the wider Queensland community. He offered for Sunrise to do this again by creating a website which would stand as a system of registration for tradespeople who would be willing to volunteer in the recovery process. This was a way that Sunrise could be involved with the recovery. The Premier did not directly answer the presenter’s offer but instead framed the conversation around encouraging general help from the Queensland community.

Sunrise was able to create a communicative frame around the coverage of the flood crisis by identifying with the audience of “ordinary Australians” and acting on their behalf. By instigating Operation Bounce Back they became a medium for providing services to the community that were greatly needed and appreciated. The program facilitated its audience’s participation in the recovery process. In later reports by Sunrise the success of Operation Bounce Back was shown in the rebuilding of flood damaged areas such as Goodna and Ipswich. Sunrise could prove through these feel-good and success stories that they could assist in the management of crisis events.

As discussed by Carah and Louw (2012), a Right to Information request was sent to the Department of Public Works which suggested that Sunrise had put forward the idea for Operation Bounce Back to the Premier’s Office before it was launched on 18 January.  On the afternoon of 17 January a brief was sent by the Sunrise producer Andy Kay that described the campaign as “a Queensland Government initiative which has invited Sunrise as its Media Partner to assist”. This campaign was orchestrated with the government well before being announced “spontaneously” to Sunrise viewers on the morning of 18 January.  According to records, even the website that Kochie said Sunrise would quickly get up and running within half an hour of the operation being announced in his interview with the Premier, was in fact registered the night before (Carah & Louw, 2012). Channel Seven was able to mediate how the Sunrise audience perceived the initiative taken by Kochie. He appeared to have suddenly come to an agreement with the Premier in his interview to help Brisbane recover from the floods, when in fact this idea had been in process for some time.

The Muller and Gawenda (2010) reading about the media’s actions after the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in February 2009 has some ideas that are applicable to the situation Sunrise was in after the floods in 2011. The article states that “in the aftermath of disaster, the media [plays] a role in developing and promoting themes around which recovery begins to be built” (Muller & Gawenda, 2010).  This was the case not only with the media involved in the coverage of the bushfires, but the floods as well. Sunrise assisted in the development of Operation Bounce Back and promoted the idea in collaboration with the Queensland Government. This campaign featured themes of “rebuilding” and “pulling together” as discussed by Muller and Gawenda (2010). In the Operation Bounce Back campaign, Sunrise reported their stories of success such as those at the North’s Junior Rugby League Club in Ipswich. By telling the story of the children being able to play Rugby again “thanks to Operation Bounce Back and a team of volunteers”, the benefits of this campaign were realised. The reading says that “the telling of human stories arising from [a] disaster is essential” if the benefits of media coverage are to be realised (Muller & Gawenda, 2010).

In conclusion, the campaign launched by Sunrise in coordination with the Queensland Government was an effective way for this media corporation to use representation. Operation Bounce Back enabled them to mediate the way in which their audience of “ordinary Australians” viewed Sunrise’s response to the flood crisis in early 2011. The campaign allowed them to be deeply involved with managing the recovery process of the floods, while working alongside the government. As a future professional communicator, I believe that Operation Bounce Back was successful in its aims to be involved in the mediation of the flood recovery process. The event was correctly represented by journalists as it worked with government to manage the community’s feelings about the crisis and their participation in the recovery effort.  I would be interested in being involved in the production of such a campaign.

Egypt & Gene Sharp

This is an assignment from 2013. I wrote about the nonviolent political campaign in Egypt and used it as a case study to critically analyse Gene Sharp’s consent theory of power.

Al Jazeera and agencies. 2011. ‘World reacts as Mubarak steps down’. Accessed 20 April 2013.  Available at


The news story I have chosen is from Al Jazeera and relates to the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 which saw the overthrow of former President Husni Mubarak. This essay will discuss the nonviolent political campaign in Egypt as a case study to critically analyse Gene Sharp’s consent theory of power.

Description of the conflict which led to the nonviolent campaign:

Before the revolution, an oppressive and corrupt system of rule had been enforced upon the people of Egypt for nearly 60 years. The most recent to rule was President Hosni Mubarak who was in power for nearly 30 years (Hill 2011).

Mubarak’s regime was known to be autocratic, corrupt, oppressive of democracy and to be responsible for the weakening of the economy. He took over as President of Egypt in 1981 following the assassination of Anwar Sadat (Mariwala 2012). Following this, Mubarak seemed to be preparing his son Gamal to continue the oppressive regime as the next President. This was evident because Gamal held important positions in the Egyptian business community and the National Democratic Party (NDP) secretariat (Mariwala 2012).

Furthermore, the state had been under Emergency Law since 1967, which enforced censorship, suspended constitutional rights and extended a great amount of power to the police (Mariwala 2012). The law acted as a means for the executive power to disregard basic freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution (International Federation for Human Rights 2011).

The NDP dominated parliament and ensured that Mubarak would be re-elected. This occurred up until 2005 when the first multi-party election was held. Mubarak won with 88 per cent of the vote, however it is suspected that the election was rigged and that his government intimidated voters (Mariwala 2012). This system created an illegitimate government where the people had no influence over who was chosen to be in power. The entire system was run by executive bodies instead of pillars of a balanced political system.

The regime increasingly relied on coercion and confrontation to contain the restlessness and demands of the young population, with 75 per cent of the total population being under 35(Mariwala 2012). However, Mubarak’s reliance on the use of force became shadowed by the availability of the Internet and satellite channels. Egyptians were able to use this technology as a way to voice their dissatisfaction and to create more awareness about the regime (Osman 2010).

Revolutionary regime changes in Tunisia in December 2010 started the “Arab Spring”.  This term was formed by the media to describe the revolutionary movement of demonstrations and protests that have occurred in the Arab World since Tunisia to oppose oppressive regimes formed by absolute dictatorships or monarchies (Mariwala 2012). The Egyptian revolution was triggered following the success of uprisings in Tunisia. The people’s resentment in Egypt was highlighted and so protests began on 25 January 2011 – known as the “day of revolt” (Mariwala 2012). Masses of people filled Tahrir Square in Cairo to non-violently protest against the oppressive policies, corruption of the state and democratisation of the government. On 11 January the nation celebrated as Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation and gave power to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Mariwala 2012).

Critically analyse Gene Sharp’s consent theory of power using the case study an an example:

Gene Sharp’s ideas on nonviolence are highly regarded in the world today. His consent theory of power in particular offers a basis for understanding how nonviolent action works. The theory is based on two key concepts: the first is a division in society between the “rulers” and the “subjects”, and the second is that the withdrawal of consent of the subjects is essential to achieving political change (Martin 2005: 14). Rulers are defined as any ruling groups, chief executives or any bodies in command of the structure of the state (Martin 2005: 14). The subjects refer to all other people in society besides those who are rulers (Martin 2005: 14). The active withdrawal of consent by the subjects – through means such as nonviolent action – is considered a main avenue for achieving political change because the power of the ruler is dependent upon the consent of its subjects (Sharp 1973: 7). By cutting off a ruler’s power at the roots and declining to supply the ruler with the sources of his/her power, the political power can be controlled by the subjects (Kriesberg  1975: 530). By uniting people to challenge oppressive authority or coercive power, grassroot movements can make great change (Canning and Reinsborough 2010). Sharp states that the scope of command that the ruler has is heavily dependent upon the submission and cooperation of its subjects (Bleiker 2000: 103).

Sharp describes power as being pluralistic because it exists in a variety of diverse locations and groups in society, which he calls the “loci of power”.  A counteracting force of power to that of the ruler is provided by the loci of power (Martin 2005: 14). It becomes a means by which those without power may limit or control the power held by those in authority. The values of these groups may change depending on the needs, aims, and access of those already in power (McGuinness 1993). This concept of the loci of power applies to the case study of the Egyptian Revolution. The Popular Committee was formed following the weakening of the state of Egypt and its inability to guarantee the safety of the public (El-Meehy 2012). It succeeded in activating social and political forces in support of the Palestinian cause by engaging university and school students in its activities (Ali 2011). This network of young people being taught organisational and political skills created a way for all political forces to unite in the public arena (Ali 2011). This committee formed part of the loci of power that established a challenge to the oppressive regime and laws of Husni Mubarak. Without being granted consent or permission from the proper authorities, the Popular Committee openly set up offices in all governorates. The movement affected the legitimacy of the Mubarak regime by publicly opposing any chance of his or his son’s involvement in Egypt’s future political power system. They opposed publicly through the collection of donations, organisational meetings, the organisation of aid convoys, preparation of political statements and the planning of demonstrations (Ali 2011). The people of Egypt are adamant that the demolition of Mubarak’s regime would not have been possible without having been able to see the success of a similar abolishment of power by the people in Tunisia (Jones 2012). This was especially possible for frustrated young people, the underemployed and educated people to witness as they had the ability to organise themselves through social media platforms to “[revolutionise] the collective imagination of what is possible” (Jones 2012). Such systems as this in Egypt allowed an alternative to Mubarak’s dismissal of the rights of people to speak freely, criticise and debate about the regime.

Sharp’s consent theory of power also discusses the reasons for obedience.  He narrows down the factors that make people obey, other than fear, to: habit, fear of sanctions, moral obligation, self-interest, psychological identification, zones of indifference and the absence of self-confidence among subjects (Sharp 1973: 19-23). Although the reasons are deemed to be greatly influenced by various social forces, the opinion or the will of the individual subject operates each reason (Sharp 1973: 26). In the case of sanctions and physical threats by the ruler, Sharp argues that it is not the “sanctions themselves which produce obedience but the fear of them” (Sharp 1973: 28).  Rulers work hard to make their sanctions feared with the goal of making the consequences appear more undesirable than the consequences of obedience; it is safer to obey the rules set by the ruler (Sharp 1973: 27). Sharp does say however, that subjects do obey without the fear of sanctions but they do so essentially voluntarily (Sharp 1973: 28). In the case of authority as a source of power, a decline in the ruler’s authority, Sharp argues, affects the subjects’ willingness to obey and may also reduce their voluntary cooperation (Sharp 1973: 31). This was the case in the Egyptian Revolution. Despite sanctions imposed upon the people by the person in “authority”, the subjects in Egypt denied Mubarak that authority and their predisposition towards obedience became loosened. The Egyptian public gives substantial credibility to the judges in the judicial system. Following violent abuses to judges by parliament in regards to their influence in the elections, groups of judges who were led by the Egyptian Judges Club took action to request “full judicial independence from the executive authority” (Ali 2011). The judges were part of the basic power structure of the state and even they were demanding reform and accusing the government of election rigging. They began to turn against the regime despite the fear produced by the regime, when over time 165 judges were assaulted during parliamentary elections (Ali 2011). This choice to challenge Mubarak’s regime was voluntary. The battle for judicial independence required these particular subjects to choose to stop obeying the ruler so they could in turn join the battle for democracy and liberation in Egypt

When subjects voluntarily loosen their obedience in opposition of an oppressive regime, they have the ability to completely withdraw their consent. Sharp stresses that “obedience is at the heart of political power” (Sharp 1973: 16). Without the obedience and consent of its subjects, the ruler has no true control of political power. All the sources of the ruler’s power rely on the consent of the subjects as well as their obedience and cooperation (Martin 2005: 15). This consent can be given and withdrawn but people are often unaware of the power they hold to take such action (Bleiker 2000: 103). Sharp attributes this to governments’ conspiring to make illusions of monolithic power which results in the subjects being made to feel helpless. Events such as the battle for judicial independence in Egypt were clear indicators of the subjects choosing to disobey and thereby withdraw their consent from the Mubarak regime. The protests that began in Cairo on 25 January 2011 were highly indicative of a conflicting relationship between the Egyptian people and their ruler. They were not random actions, but actions that indicate an organisation of people, an awareness of their oppression and an obvious withdrawal of consent to be ruled in this way. Previous protests and acts of disobedience such as those by the judges, changed the attitudes of the people and proved that “withdrawal of obedience and cooperation can create extreme difficulties for the system” (Sharp 1973: 32). On 28 January Egyptians managed to take hold of Tahrir Square which signified a great win over the police forces who would usually suffocate any acts of civil disobedience with brute force (Hill 2011). Egyptians became “celebrity” activists by voicing their withdrawal of consent to the world through social media such as Facebook and Twitter (Hill 2011). This damaged the legitimacy of Mubarak’s regime and within 18 days his leadership fell as his subjects ceased to fear sanctions, ceased to obey and were prepared to suffer for change. Despite differences in people such as religion, sex, class and ideology, Tahrir Square became a symbol that popular will can force change on even the most repressive ruler (Hill 2011). After seeing the effective abolition of a similar regime in Tunisia, Egyptians became aware of the power of their consent and that they could use this power to wield great political change. The events and outcome of this revolution therefore adhere to the basis of Gene Sharp’s consent theory of power.


To conclude, the Egyptian Revolution that occurred in 2011 was used as a case study to critically analyse Gene Sharp’s consent theory of power. His ideas about the loci of power, obedience being voluntary and the withdrawal of consent to achieve political change could all be identified and analysed in Egypt’s protest to the Mubarak regime. Although Egyptians are well on the road to liberation after withdrawing their consent from an oppressive system of leadership, they still have a long way to go. Gene Sharp can continue to provide a means by which oppressed people can gain a fair democratic system, but it is ultimately up to the people to be responsible for their own liberation.

Imaginative Essay – Anarchism

I wrote this essay in 2013 for an assignment at university. The task was to choose a political ideology (not one you actually follow… Eg. I chose Anarchism) and respond to four sections: My Beliefs, My Political Activities, My Opponents and Politics Across Difference.

Section 1: My Beliefs

In this section I will describe my main beliefs as an Anarchist.

The most important belief I hold is concerned with the freedom of the individual.  The happiness and success of the individual is a central idea (Rocker [1960] 2001: 10). As an Anarchist, I reject control by any organised group, particularly the government. In fact, I believe that all forms of government are unnecessary (Goldman [1910] 2005: 367). The government’s process of “making men moral and civilizing them, has up to now always enslaved, oppressed, exploited and ruined them” (Rocker [1960] 2001: 20). The functions of government should be limited to a minimum if not completely eradicated. Human being’s best nature is ruined by the current organisation of society. Individual and social aspects of life are not left to naturally and freely unfold. People are in fact capable of cooperation and freedom in Anarchist political thought; “they are capable of organizing their affairs without anyone exercising authority of others” (Sargent 1999: 174).

In order for this to occur all economic monopolies would have to be eradicated as well as all social and political coercive institutions within society (Rocker [1960] 2001: 23). As long as people are separated into classes on the basis for example of them owning or not owning property, an equalising of social and economic conditions for the benefit of all is not possible. For society to become a real community and for human labor to guarantee the wellbeing of everyone, it is essential that economic monopolies be abolished and a common ownership of all means of production be upheld (Rocker [1960] 2001: 10). Personal and social freedom can only be created when the economic conditions are equal for everybody. This would rid society of the “modern state’s” political power to oppress and subjugate the non-possessing classes (Rocker [1960] 2001: 14).

It is an anarchist belief that the ownership of property leads to exploitation. The instruments of labor should be owned by all, through industrial groups tied by one another by free contract (Rocker [1960] 2001: 19). There is no right to exploit others and the full product of individual labor should be assured to every member of society. The time it takes to complete a product should be the measure of its value. In this way, society would become a group of free communities, arranged according to their needs. With more freedom provided to the independence and enterprising abilities of the individual, the better society becomes.

Culture thrives the best where the influence of political power in society is reduced to a minimum (Rocker [1960] 2001: 15). This is because under political rulership, there is always the drive for uniformity and for every part of social life to be governed. There is no room for growth in freedom of expression and for change. Power in a political sense can only operate destructively and conservatively (Rocker [1960] 2001: 16). Anarchism provides freedom which inspires humans to do great things and encourages transformations both socially and intellectually (Rocker [1960] 2001: 16). This liberates man from political, intellectual and social oppression.

Transformation of the current society to an Anarchistic society would take years of education and constructive work. Revolutionary convulsions would be necessary to encourage rejection of authority and the creation of a society where voluntary cooperation is key (Sargent 1999: 174). All associations would be developed to fulfill a specific need and would need to be small enough so that people can control it, rather than be controlled by it (Sargent 1999: 174).

Section 2: My Political Activities

Activity 1

I support movements such as Occupy Wall Street which aims to fight for “economic justice in the face of rampant criminality on Wall Street [in New York City] and a government controlled by monied interests” (Occupy Wall Street 2012). The movement is in protest of all economic exploitation and injustice stemming from Wall Street’s crimes and abuse of control. The protestors believe they have an obligation to “build serious and meaningful change from the bottom up”. They hope to reclaim society from the domination of the 1% – the government. This activity reflects my beliefs because it is structured on anarchist organising principles. There are no formal leaders or hierarchy, but rather it is full of “people who lead by example” (Occupy Wall Street 2012). Anyone has the opportunity to become a leader of people who like their ideas, as people are free to evolve naturally into their roles rather than be appointed. This political activity has exposed the corruption of governments and has brought people together from different political, class and racial divides to build a better future. Ultimately they strive for freedom for the individual from governing powers, which is a strong belief of mine as an Anarchist.

Activity 2

I also support movements such as the Ruckus Society which aims to provide environmental, human rights and social justice organisers with training to achieve their goals through strategic and creative non-violent direct action (The Ruckus Society 2012). Greenpeace had been forced to cut their week-long training sessions which led to the creation of the Ruckus Society in 1995, when there was a real need for training in non-violent direct action (The Ruckus Society 2012). At this time an anti-environment, pro-logging bill was signed by President Bill Clinton in America. This called for many activists in leading environmental organisations to join the fight against timber sales and forest destruction. Ruckus still trains and supports its allies in the forest movement and aims to work with those struggling with economic and social abuses (The Ruckus Society 2012). I am a believer in this movement because it leads to the overthrow of coercive authorities by training activists to protest. This organisation enables people to fight oppression by giving them the necessary skills to do so.

Activity 3

I am a supporter of the anarchist political action by Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) which started in Mexico on New Year’s Day 1994. Two thousand armed insurgents occupied a city and five towns and declared war on the Mexican government (Rondfeldt 1998: 1). They announced a revolutionary agenda and began an international media campaign for support and sympathy (Rondfeldt 1998: 1). EZLN called on the civil society of Mexico, peaceful activists, to join the nationwide struggle for economic, social and political change (Rondfeldt 1998: 2). The Mexican government’s reaction involved ordering the police and army forces to restrain the insurrection (Rondfeldt 1998: 1). This sparked the further interest of the community of foreign activists involved in human rights, indigenous rights and other nongovernmental organisations. They joined in a non-violent movement for military withdrawal, a cease-fire and negotiations with EZLN (Rondfeldt 1998: 3). On January 12, the Mexican government agreed to enter negotiations and called a halt to all combat operations, to everyone’s surprise (Rondfeldt 1998: 3). This movement allowed people to fight for their freedom against an oppressive government and paved the way for revolutionary change.

Activity 4

I am in support of the Food Not Bombs movement as it empowers people to take action and resist corporate domination and exploitation (Food Not Bombs 2012). The movement recovers food that would have otherwise been discarded and shares it to protest against war and poverty. They encourage the public to press for less military spending in the United States and for that money to be redirected to human need (Food Not Bombs 2012). The group also gives food to striking workers and protestors. It also organises food relief after political and natural crisis. Food Not Bombs aims to inspire people to help change society by focusing resources on solving problems such as hunger, poverty and homelessness (Food Not Bombs 2012). At the same time they seek an end to the destruction of the environment and to war. I believe in this movement because it shows how people can work cooperatively through volunteer effort, which is an essential part of Anarchist thought, to better the community. I also support their dedication to nonviolent direct action.

Section 3: My Opponents

a)      What are the main features of Liberalism?

The main principle of liberal ideology is liberty and freedom for the individual (Heywood 2007: 29). In Liberal political thought, it is recognised that it is suitable to place some restrictions on the freedom of the individual in order to prevent harm to others (Mill [1991] 2005: 80). The individual should have the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen says that the rights of man, to be dispersed by all political associations, include “liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression” (French National Assembly [1789] 1995: 467). A liberal democracy would aim to provide these rights.

Politcal equality and a just system are essential for the freedom of individuals (Heywood 2007: 40). Each person should be judged equally by the law.

Liberal constitutionalism and a fair democracy are also key features of Liberalism. According to these features, power should be as widely dispersed as possible. An adequate concentration of power should also be maintained to ensure the security of individuals and to enforce the law (Johnston 2010). Political rule that balances the principle of limited government against the ideal of popular consent defines a liberal democracy (Heywood 2007: 40). The authority of the rulers should rely ultimately on the consent of the ruled as part of the liberal principles of constitutionalism (Johnston 2010). There must be a regular opportunity for competitive elections which conform to the principles of universal suffrage and political equality, in order for there to be consent (Heywood 2007: 40).

b)      What are the Liberalist views likely to be about the political activities I am engaged in, previously described in Section Two?

Liberals also believe in the individual’s right to freedom (Heywood 2007: 29). All the political activities listed in Section Two have central themes of freedom for the individual from oppressive forces. Liberalists believe that there should be minimum government involvement; however some people in the political activities were oppressed by coercive and intense governments (Heywood 2007: 40). Liberalists are likely to disagree with the forms of protest discussed because they believe that political institutions are absolutely necessary to maintain security and enforce the law (Johnston 2010). They do not understand that the individual is capable of cooperating without the political institutions. It is not a liberalist view to have a group of people with no formal leader, such as in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I believe that liberals would consider the outcomes of these political activities to be ultimately positive as they strengthened legal, political and social equality (Heywood 2007: 40). They also strongly believe that the authority of the rulers should rely ultimately on the consent of the ruled, which I think some of these political activities helped to achieve (Johnston 2010).

Section 4: Politics Across Difference

a)      Do I have any beliefs in common with my opponent (Liberalism)?

As an Anarchist, I do have some beliefs in common with my Liberal opponent. The main one is that we both believe that the “happiness and prosperity of the individual must be the standard in all social matters” (Rocker [1960] 2001: 10). In other words, there should be freedom for the individual to pursue their own interests without oppression of their ideas and opinions.  In spite of this, our beliefs as to what defines “freedom for the individual” differ.

In order for freedom to be achievable, Liberalists share my belief that the functions of government need to be limited to a minimum (Heywood 2007: 40). Liberalists believe that the power of government should be widely dispersed and that power needs to remain in order for individuals to be secure and for the law to be enforced (Johnston 2010). In the words of Jefferson, a “government is best which governs least (Rocker [1960] 2001: 10).

However, as an Anarchist I would go one step further to say that every institution of political power should be eradicated, rather than merely minimised. This is because I believe that government and social coercive organizations have limited the freedom of the individual. I do not believe that political institutions are necessary to provide security and law enforcement because this theory underestimates the ability of the individual to organise themselves without political authority and the ability of individuals to cooperate and be truly free.

b)      How would I attempt to work with my opponent on one common issue of concern to me?

Both my opponent and I share a common issue of concern in regards to the unequal political, economic and social rights for women. The growth of the feminist movement should prosper in order to end sexist oppression and encourage equal rights between man and woman, and ultimately to all of society. I feel that we could work together in creating more equal rights for women by taking a more anarchistic view into consideration.

Liberal feminists struggle for state-instituted reforms. Zillah Eisenstein argues that “the motive of the state, via liberal feminism, is to keep women in their place as secondary wage earners and as mothers” (Jaggar 1983: 201). She believes that feminism cannot be met by the liberal state because they have no commitment to women’s liberation (Jaggar 1983: 202).

This coercive power instilled by governments which is a defining feature of the state is never legitimate in Anarchistic political thought.  I believe that liberal feminism has failed because of the failure to challenge state power (Jaggar 1983: 202). Without the threat of force by governing powers, Anarchists believe that the possibility of a community where human relations are not kept in check or oppressed is achievable (Jaggar 1983: 203). Individuals would be left to be who they want to be, without the burdens of conforming to the social, political and economic “norms” set out by a governing organisation.

However in an attempt to work with my opponent at this stage in contemporary society, I would recommend the continuation of the various councils, offices and commissions whose mandate is to study women, listen to their protests, to formulate solutions to their problems and even fund feminist projects (Jaggar 1983: 201). I would however, like to suggest that these bodies not only proliferate in communities where the feminist movement has the most impact, but are encouraged to be formed all over the world. When studying women, they should not treat them as a minority group by catorgorising and separating them from the rest of society, but should aim to make them as equal as possible. State involvement in feminist matters should be held at the bare minimum to avoid further oppression.

Reflective Report on 2011 Egyptian Revolution

I wrote this report in 2013 for an assignment at university. I used the Tahrir Square protests in 2011 as a starting point to reflect on the revolution. I then went on to talk about Liberalism and compared Liberal Ideology to the regime present in Egypt during the uprising. I also reflected on how Liberalism impacts my everyday life.

Question 1: What is going on in the photograph, where did you find the photo and why did you choose it?

Image“Mubarak Steps Down” by Alex Majoli, 10 February 2011.

The above photograph was posted on the World Press Photo website and was taken by Alex Majoli in Cairo, Egypt.  It shows a group of demonstrators on Tahrir Square reacting to a televised speech where they discovered that Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak would not be giving up power, opposing previous expectations (World Press Photo 2012). Tahrir Square had become increasingly volatile since late January 2011 with protests against Mubarak’s 30-year-old regime (Freedom House 2012). The uprising saw campaigns of mainly non-violent resistance including demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience and labour strikes (Freedom House 2012). The revolution did however see violent clashes between security forces and protestors. The people were exposed to police brutality, state of emergency laws and uncontrollable corruption (Freedom House 2012).  I chose this photograph because it represents a group of oppressed people who have been denied simple liberal rights such as freedom of speech, a just legal system and a fair democracy – they deserve the right to fight for these liberal principles.

Question 2: Making reference to the Readings on this course, what are the main features of liberalism?

The main principle of liberal ideology is liberty or freedom for the individual (Heywood 2007: 29). Modern liberals believe that people should be exposed to “positive freedom” which allows the individual to “develop and ultimately achieve self-realization” (Heywood 2007: 31). John Stuart Mill recognises that it is acceptable to place minimal restrictions on the freedom of the individual in order to prevent harm to others, rather than to allow a claim to absolute freedom (Mill [1991] 2005: 80). The photograph above shows maximum restrictions on the freedom of the individual. Under Mubarak’s political regime, Egyptian people were denied freedom of speech which is a highly valued liberal idea. The individual should have the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas.

As mentioned in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen:

The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and inalienable rights of man; these rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression (French National Assembly [1789] 1995: 467).

In spite of this, the photograph is representative of a group of people who were denied all of these rights. A liberal democracy would aim to provide these basic rights to the individual and society. For decades the people of Egypt have instead had to succumb to the enforcement of the “Emergency Law”. This law is a means for the “executive power to storm many basic rights and freedom guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution” (International Federation for Human Rights 2011).

In addition, the freedom of individuals relies on legal and political equality and a just system (Heywood 2007: 40). Each person should be judged equally by the law and the system of justice should remain politically equal. This was not the case in the Egyptian Revolution. Mubarak declared a “state of emergency” and jailed thousands of “suspected militants” in the midst of an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s (Freedom House 2012). The Islamist groups were mostly eradicated by 1998, however the Mubarak regime continued to limit civil and political liberties (Freedom House 2012). Under Mubarak’s rule, the judicial system was not fair and was corrupt as harassment of activists and nongovernmental organizations was common (Freedom House 2012).

Liberal constitutionalism and a fair democracy are key theories of the liberal political regime. According to these theories, power should be as widely dispersed as possible while maintaining adequate concentration of power to ensure the security of individuals and to enforce the law (Johnston 2010). Political rule that balances the principle of limited government against the ideal of popular consent is definitive of liberal democracy (Heywood 2007: 40). Mubarak abused his right to power as President of Egypt. He was the ruler of the oppressed. No one could run against him at referendums due to a restriction in the Egyptian constitution whereby the People’s Assembly held the main role in elections (The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights 2011). As part of the liberal principles of constitutionalism, the authority of the rulers should rely ultimately on the consent of the ruled (Johnston 2010). In order for there to be consent, there must be a regular opportunity for competitive elections which conform to the principles of universal suffrage and political equality (Heywood 2007: 40). There have been reports of government-level security offices in Egypt that rejected the applications of dozens of would-be candidates without cause. This creates illegitimacy in the government (International Federation for Human Rights 2010). Hundreds of court rulings regarding this matter have been ignored by state institutions that have a primary role of enforcing the law (International Federation for Human Rights 2010).

This photograph represents the beginning of a battle for the people of Egypt to obtain liberal rights and see the end of this oppressive autocracy.

Question 3: How does liberalism impact on your life?

Liberalism has had a positive impact on my life. I am fortunate to have been raised in a democratic country such as Australia where as an individual I have tremendous opportunities for freedom.

Without a liberal democracy, I would not have been exposed to such an equality of opportunity. Systems have been set up in Australia that allow anyone to be properly educated. Thanks to these policies, I am free to study at one of the top Universities in the world alongside some of the most highly educated people in the world, with no fear of division. This enables Australian Citizens like myself to use our wisdom and experience for the good of others.

I am also grateful that I have been exposed to a regular election process where limited government is balanced against the ideal of popular consent (Heywood 2007: 40). Measures such as this have ensured that the Australian government does not fall to corruption as in Egypt. The people have been provided with their right to free communication of ideas and opinions. Having turned 18, I am now able to vote at regular elections and truly have my say about the operations and leadership of our democracy.

It is reassuring to know that thanks to liberalism, Australia has a just legal system. Every citizen is rewarded what they are “due” and this is not determined according to any particular class or background (The Liberal Party of Australia 2012). We have the opportunity for a fair trial and do not face interference from unwanted government forces.

I also appreciate that Australia is a very accepting country that celebrates its many diversities. We embrace the influence of other cultures and respect their political ideologies. Our liberal democratic system respects and tolerates the individual’s beliefs (The Liberal Party of Australia 2012). I am therefore free to express my faith in my religion without consequence. This creates social harmony.

Liberalism has provided me with a great amount of freedom and so many opportunities. I am not bound by my gender or social class. I have the right to choose to work or study. I know that as long as I live under a liberal democracy, I have no need to fear oppression by the state or infringements to my basic rights as an individual.